Today, Glenn links a post by my law school Civil Rights Professor endorsing my favorite left-wing law professor to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court.
I have to agree with Glenn that, “We could do worse, and probably will.”
There would be few things more entertaining than to watch Pam Karlan go head-to-head with Justice Scalia on points of law. I have met few lawyers with a mind as sharp as her and an appreciation for her adversaries’ opinions. She could offer the court’s most articulate conservative a run for his money.
After taking her Voting Rights’ class my First Year, it didn’t surprise me to learn how many conservative law students swarmed to her classes.
One of my peers, a member of Law Review and the Federalist Society, boasted that he had taken every course Karlan taught while he was at U-VA. I recall in our Criminal Procedure class when she took fifteen minutes to debate a conservative student who took issue with her interpretation of a particular case. She didn’t berate him. She let him talk, then responded to his points rationally and respectfully. He thanked her for her consideration.
When I directed the Federalist Society’s Annual Symposium held at U-VA in 1994, one of our liberal speakers had to cancel at the last minute. The only solution we could come up with to keep the ideological balance on that panel was to ask Karlan to step in–meaning she’d be on two panels at the national conference of a conservative/libertarian law group.
She agreed.Even with limited preparation, she offered an informed opinion and participated in a spirited discussion.
Pam Karlan was everyone’s ideal of what a law professor should be. She came well prepared to class, didn’t shirk from expressing her opinion, but she showed respect for those at odds with it. She spoke more than once to our chapter of the Federalist Society, debating Clint Bolick to a standing-room only crowd and dining with our members to discuss the legal philosophy of her friend Lani Guinier whom then-President Clinton appointed as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in 1993 before withdrawing the nomination.
Bill Stuntz, my former Civil Rights law professor cites Karlan’s gifts as a writer: “I know no one else who can turn out so much work that is so pleasing to read. Plus, she can be devastatingly funny. That is a recipe for the kind of influence that lasts.”
Not only could she write well, but she could speak well, often interrupting her lectures with a humorous interjection. When we were discussing one case where she had argued for one side (I believe it was the losing side) before the Supreme Court, she said as much, then perhaps thinking she had been immodest to mention that, looked up from her notes and said that we should all argue before the Supremes at least once in our lives as it’s the “most fun you can have with your clothes on.”
Pam Karlan is an accomplished scholar, a good writer, but more importantly a good person. It would be a feather in the President’s cap if he nominated someone who, throughout her career, has shown such respect for her ideological adversaries. Coupled with her gifts as a legal scholar, that respect should earn her a berth on the nation’s highest court.