Friday, November 26, 2010

Feingold for Supreme Court ? Probably Not

And what about Russ Feingold as a candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court as suggested by the Progressive's Matt Rothschild?

He'd be a very serious candidate. I don't have much sense of him as a lawyer. My recollection is that he was a few years ahead of me at Harvard Law School where I think he was an average student. We worked briefly at the same law firm but he was in Madison and pretty clearly more interested in politics than practicing law. My guess is that he would be a very attractive candidate for those on the legal left.

As a result, he'd attract powerful independent opposition. Because he's never been a judge - or, for that matter, much of a lawyer - there'd be little in the way of a record concerning actual cases as will be the case with Justice Prosser and his current opponent. But Feingold has been fairly adamant in adopting a view of the Bill of Rights that emphasizes the rights of criminal defendants and that is always a tough sell in a judicial election. I think he'd lose in a hugely expensive race and that would probably make a race for the Senate in 2012 highly unlikely.

More than that, it may be a mistake to come back to a statewide race so quickly. The voters just said no. It may be best to wait a while before you ask them again.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

J.D., cum laude, Class of 1979. Not in the top 10% of the class, like you, Mr. Magna Cum Laude, but the next 30%. "Average student"? I'd be peeved if my honors were disparaged that cavalierly. Retract, sir.

Anonymous said...

A little touchy, Anon 4:30?

Anonymous said...

Rick's just ticked law school 30 years ago was the last time he did better than Russ.

Rick Esenberg said...

My anonymous commenters are often so nasty. I won't retract. The guy does not have established chops as a lawyer. He chose a different path.

Free Lunch said...

Why do we even expect lawyers to be judges? The training should be different. The experience of the job is different. The skills needed are different. Despite that, almost every judge we have in the US is a lawyer. Some turn out to be extremely good. Some are acceptable hacks. Some are pleasant surprises. Some are terrible or corrupt.

I don't think that a law school graduate who became a practicing attorney or a law school professor or a politician or a plumbing contractor or an actor would be particularly better or worse for a court. I do think that elections for the courts, as the two most recent ones have shown, allow even encourage corruption in the process.

Are appointments better? Somewhat. It seems to me that the best approach is to require Court of Appeals experience for those who want to be on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

No, no, no, please, Free Lunch. The caliber of our judiciary would not be improved, it would be diminished, if there's even more of this unfortunate trend to pick high court judges solely from the ranks of the judicial monastery. Many of the greatest have come from politics (John Marshall, Charles Evans Hughes, Taft, Black, Douglas, Warren), or from successful careers practicing law (Brandeis, Harlan, Powell). Here in Wisconsin, the earliest justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court were often the most successful lawyers in the state.

Interestingly, Rick contrasts a potential Feingold run with Justice Prosser's record. Yet, when Tommy appointed Prosser to Supreme Court in 1998, Prosser hadn't practiced law in 19 years; and he'd never engaged in private practice. He served many years in the State Legislature before serving two years on the Tax Appeals Commission. And Prosser is well regarded as the leader of the conservative wing of our court.

Our Supreme Court would be enriched by a member with the intellectual firepower and skills of Russ Feingold. Whether he'd be willing to step into the muck of a Wisconsin Supreme Court election is another question.

Anonymous said...

Except for at a left-wing non-profit, Feingold is largely unemployable in the private sector, so he'll have to get a job as a judge or some other taxpayer-funded gig.

Mom29 said...

My anonymous commenters are often so nasty.

Really, Rick. You're going to take a swipe at a person's academic record (based on what you "think" about it, no less) and call a little mockery of it "nasty."

Speaking of which, don't tell me conflating an academic record in law school with "chops as a lawyer" is what earned you that magna status.

By the way, is my name better now?

John Foust said...

Harvard? I thought all the bestest lawyers and justices went to Hamline.

George Mitchell said...

Feingold's signal legislative achievement has been determined to be largely unconstitutional. Similarly, a multitude of McCain-Feingold offshoots have been ruled unconstitutional or are in serious trouble in pending cases. That would be a potential issue if a Feingold candidacy occurs.

Jud Lounsbury said...

1) Russ Feingold was cum laude at Harvard and a Rhodes Scholar.

2) He go rejected by about 25% of Wisconsin's voters.

PoliticalWisconsin said...

In response to Mr. Mitchell's comment, while BCRA better known as McCain-Feingold was struck down as unconstitutional as applied to certain situations. If you read the Supreme Court decision in McConnell v. FEC in 2003, a facial challenge to BCRA, you will notice that on its face, it was by in large completely constitutional. It was only deemed unconstitutional as applied to a certain very specific issue. I will not even go into the objections to the Citizens United & Wisconsin Right to Life cases.

Jud Lounsbury said...

Also, in response to your "doesn't have chops as a lawyer." Are you serious? Other than spending the last 30 years as a LAW maker? You disappoint me with with you're partisan flakery.

George Mitchell said...

Political Wisconsin "will not even go into the objections to the Citizens United & Wisconsin Right to Life cases." Sure. Why acknowledge the most relevant cases? Perhaps candidate Feingold can likewise explain that if you disregard the state of the law his legislation is fine.

Anonymous said...

He got his law degree in two years. That's one less than most students.

Anonymous said...

This is laughable. The Foley & Lardner dropout (now an Acting Visiting Professor at a third-tier law school) denigrates another F&L alumnus who went into politics.

Then we have a college drop-out (Mitchell) providing constitutional analysis.

Priceless.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:43: Feingold spent two years at Magdalen College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, and got a degree there, with "honours," in jurisprudence. Harvard Law School gives Rhodes Scholars and Marshall Scholars, etc. who have law degrees from British universities credit for their British coursework. That's how he was able to get a Harvard law degree in two years.

I have to concur with Anon 7:00 about the irony of our discussing Russ Feingold's student record. This guy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UW, was a Rhodes Scholar, and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. He's not smart enough for the job? Give me a break.

Nor do I think spending thirty years answering interrogatories and defending depositions, or presiding over Monday morning default confirmation of sheriff's sale hearings, would have better qualified him to serve on our Supreme Court.

George Mitchell said...

Anon 7:00.

No mystery as to the basis for your anonymity.

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