THE SPINE MAY 8, 2010
This nobody who is suddenly somebody is Paul Campos. He is a professor of law at the University of Colorado. Other than being an unremarkable law professor, he is known largely for trivial interests: obesity, the personality of judges, the origins of the chicken sandwich, the Notre Dame football team. He has also shown some knack for interdisciplinary work. For example, he wrote a piece, “Fat Judges Need Not Apply,” for the Daily Beast, which, as you know, is a very serious journal. But don’t underestimate Campos. He also writes a weekly column for the Scripps Howard newspapers, a chain I hardly knew still existed. Do you want the full story on this silly scholar? Take a look at his bio on Wikipedia.
He has two arguments against President Obama’s impending nomination of the present solicitor general Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. The first is quantitative. How much has she written? Well, apparently she hasn’t written nearly enough for Campos. And certainly not in relation to his two favorites for the post. One is Stanford Law School’s Pamela Karlan, the Judith Butler of the legal academy, which is to say on the far left of the trade. Her qualifications include the fact that she has written more than 100 papers. Then there is Harold Koh, former dean of the Yale Law School and now legal adviser to the State Department. He also has more than 100 papers on his C.V. One problem with him is that he probably couldn’t get past even the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Of course, but if the main qualification for Supreme Court candidates is to be the volume of writings, the shoo-in would be Cass Sunstein, who has written several hundred articles (including many for TNR) and more than 20 books. By this standard, Cass should have two seats among the Supremes. In fact, maybe he should have two seats even by other standards.
The fact is that Campos is not sure of Kagan’s politics. She may just not be “progressive” enough for this portentous guardian of the judiciary. Isn’t it enough that President Obama, who is clearly satisfied with her performance as S.G., will send her name to the Senate? As Campos admits, most people on the left are roughly comfortable with her politics. And everybody admires her character. I’ve only met her a few times at Cambridge events. She is a brilliant conversationalist ... and very funny, besides.
OK, this is not exactly a qualification. But it is very much to the president’s credit that he is not putting up as the Stevens replacement someone who has basically signed on the dotted line.