"I think Governor Cuomo would be a good Supreme Court justice. He is a legal scholar who also understands the impact of the law on real people." -- Gov. Bill Clinton, June 16, on being
asked to name prospective court appointees.
"I'm a lawyer. I've always said I wanted to be on the [New York] Court of Appeals. It would be disingenuous of me now to say 'the idea of being on the Supreme Court means nothing to me. . . .'-- Governor Cuomo, Nov. 4.
That there will be at least one vacancy on the Supreme Court in President Clinton's term is taken for granted in Washington. Justice Harry Blackmun, who turns 84 next Thursday, has been talking publicly for some years about his desire to retire. He is the author of Roe vs. Wade. He has stayed on the court to preserve the 5-4 lineup in favor of abortion rights.
Justice Byron White, 75, who lines up the other way on this issue, is also rumored to be thinking of retirement now that a Democratic president will get to choose his replacement. He is the only member of the Supreme Court nominated by a Democrat. That was John Kennedy in 1962. It has been 25 years since any Democratic nominee made it. This is the longest party drought since the Civil War-Reconstruction era.
A Justice Cuomo would please many Democrats -- if he can be confirmed. Governor Clinton said last summer that he would nominate only pro-choice justices. The New Yorker is in that camp. Furthermore, he would bring to the court something it sorely lacks: a career politician. Someone, as Governor Clinton said, who understands the impact of the law on real people and, more important still, someone who understands how laws are actually made and executed. On the present court only Justice Sandra O'Connor has ever held elective office, and that at a low level and briefly. There hasn't been a former governor on the court in 23 years or a former member of Congress in 36.
Someone like Governor Cuomo -- a pro-choice Democratic officeholder -- probably will and should be considered by the next president.