150. Appoint Obama to Supreme Court?

While Barack Obama is qualified for the Supreme Court, there are much better things for him to do after his presidency.

When this was originally written, there some speculation that the next president, probably Hillary Clinton, might appoint Barack obama to the Supreme Court. That is much less likely now, even after we get rid of Trump. But in case it comes up, this might be helpful.

Should the next President appoint Barack Obama to the Supreme Court?

Of course he’s qualified. Very qualified. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years, from 1992 to 2004. Any rational person would think he would be an excellent Justice of SCOTUS.

The question is whether it would the best thing for him to do.

Precedence

Yes, a former President has been appointed to the Supreme Court. Warren G. Harding appointed William Howard Taft (President from 1909 to 1913) to the SCOTUS, where he served as Chief Justice from 1921 until about a month before he died, in 1930. And by most accounts he did a much better job as Chief Justice than as President.

But the job of Chief Justice is not likely to be open. John Roberts has that job. For life. And he was born in 1955, so he isn’t very old. He’s only 6 years older than Obama. So the next vacancy is likely to be one of the older Associate Justices.

Limitations

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court would be the most limiting job Obama could take. Here are just a few of those limitations.

  • He would be doing very few speeches or pronouncements, outside of opinions. And he would not be writing the majority opinions unless John Roberts wanted him to.
  • He would be very limited in what he could say in speeches or interviews.
  • Because he has respect for the Constitution, he would take this restriction more seriously even than some of the other Justices.
  • He could not campaign for any Democratic candidates.
  • He could not advise any Democratic candidates or legislators.
  • He could not serve on most foundation boards or anything like that.

Confirmation

Unless the Democrats win a large majority in the Senate, there is a very real possibility that he could not get confirmed. Remember how much the Republicans hate him. Many GOP Senators could not vote to confirm him for fear of being primaried on that alone.

Summary

While it feels good to think of Barack Obama serving our interests on the Supreme Court, once you scratch the surface it is obvious that the negatives outweigh the positives. There would be many other good choices for SCOTUS, but a former President with the skills and charisma of Barack Obama could serve in many ways. He can just about write his own ticket on what he wants to do. And yes, if he were dead set on being on the SCOTUS, the next President (assuming that’s a Democrat) would likely try to appoint him. But it’s not at all positive that he would be confirmed. There are much better things for him to do.

— Changed 21 Jan 2018

 

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