Thursday, October 10, 2013

Justice Kennedy on 2-Year Law School, Legal Blogging, Empathy, and Diversity on the Court

The Wall Street Journal LawBlog posted a couple of interesing interview segments with Justice Kennedy here and here.  

When asked about shortening law school to two years, Justice Kennedy said: 

I think the cost factor has to be addressed [but] I don’t think the right way to address it is to shorten the curriculum [which provides] the foundation for what I call the language of the law, the language that lawyers speak to each other. I can pick up the telephone and talk to an attorney two generations removed from me, and [yet] I know him, I know her. We talk this [common] language that we learn in the law school. And this is the envy of the rest of the world, I assure you, it’s a tremendous national resource.

Justice Kennedy said that he finds blogs helpful as an alternative to traditional academic scholarship: 

Professors are back in the act with the blogs. Orin Kerr, one of my former clerks, with criminal procedure [and] the internet area, Mike DorfJack Goldsmith. So the professors within 72 hours have a comment on the court opinion, which is helpful, and they are beginning to comment on when the certs are granted. And I like that.

When asked about whether judges should possess “empathy,” Justice Kennedy's response was: 

Sometimes people are cautious about that. You see the poor person hurt and the defendant is rich so you think maybe they should have the money. And if that’s how the word “empathy” plays out in your mind then there is a problem with it. But I sometimes ask my grandkids, what do you think are in all those books that are on my walls? Those are cases. Those are stories about real people, and their hopes and their aspirations, their disappointments, their mistakes. Real people are going to be bound by what you do."

When asked about the benefit of added diversity on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy said:

Sure, I think it’s helpful that we have different points of view. I’m not sure that rigid categories of gender and ethnic background are always proxies for diversity, but it gives legitimacy to what the court does. [Still], it used to be that diversity was geographical. [Nowadays], I’m the only justice from west of the Mississippi, [while four justices come from New York City].

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