Celebrating a Supreme Choice
Just before Memorial Day, I was invited to join a diverse group of bar association executive directors for a meeting in the West Wing of the White House. The administration was interested in hearing from a cross-section of bar leaders about what we considered to be key qualifications or criteria to seek in the next Supreme Court nominee. It marked the first time that MCCA has been offered a seat at the table.
The meeting was called by the Office of Public Engagement, which is now headed by Tina Tchen, a former partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager, & Flom in NY . Other legal associations invited to participate included the Association of Corporate Counsel, American Constitution Society, The Federalist Society, American Civil Liberties Union, American Association for Justice (formerly ATLA), Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and the American Bar Association. We were informed that additional meetings with different groups of bar association leaders had already taken place because President Obama wanted to hear a number of perspectives before finalizing his choice.
Although MCCA does not advocate for particular nominees and the association will not take an official position regarding the current nominee, I did share our desire for someone who has an impressive academic background, outstanding legal ability, and a grasp of economic and business issues. Representing an association with a mission to advance diversity in the legal profession, I also shared the desire for a nominee who would add to the diversity of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Exactly one week later, the nominee was announced. For the first time in history, a U.S. president determined that the most qualified person for an open seat on the highest court in the nation was both a woman and a minority. By selecting Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama not only chose someone who is outstanding, highly qualified, and experienced; he also moved the Supreme Court one step closer to looking like America, and more fully appreciating the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its citizens. It’s a historic moment that necessitates reflection and—regardless of your political views—celebration of how far we have come. DB
Veta T. Richardson
From the July/August 2009 issue of Diversity & The Bar®