Why Not a Court of Average People?

Like many Americans, commentator Baxter Black has been watching the latest comings and goings at the Supreme Court. And he has a question about the selection of nominees.

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Like many Americans, commentator Baxter Black has been watching the latest comings and goings at the Supreme Court, and he has a question about the selection of nominees.


Well, my question is: Why do we limit our choice to lawyers? I have discussed this with judges and lawyers as well as cowboys and antelope. `They must know the law to interpret it' is the logical reason given by the legal community, but I question if wisdom is necessarily bestowed to a person with a law degree, or any degree for that matter. My understanding is that the Supreme Court's job is to protect and interpret the Constitution. In my encyclopedia, the Constitution, including the amendments, is only seven pages long and the only big word is `enumeration.' Even tennis had 10 pages.

There is a terrible tendency among the verbose to ignore or disdain any declaration as simple as `Congress shall pass no law,' `the president shall have the power to,' `the right of the people shall not be infringed.' In fact, lawyers may be overqualified to interpret documents as clear as precise as the US Constitution. So it is only reasonable to allow them to practice their verbal and linguistic swordplay with each other in the lower courts, where common sense and justice are often sacrificed on the altar of loopholes.

But on the Supreme Court, where Solomon reigns, we need minds who can read the Constitution, not read things into it. If asked, my first nominee would be high school teacher, coach, father and good citizen Dan Barrera from my hometown. He has wisdom, compassion and integrity equal to most people I've seen wearing robes, and he can see beyond the courtroom. I think Dan's the kind of person that the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote, `We, the people.'

MONTAGNE: The comments of cowboy poet, philosopher and former large animal vet Baxter Black.

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