There are two kinds of reactions to the following statement, made by Andrea Mitchell on Morning Joe, about Elena Kagan’s qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice:

If you can run Harvard, and the Harvard Law factory, then you can run almost anything.

Reaction number one… nodding head in silent (and unthinking) approval, and reaction number two… “What’s that again?”

Seriously? Anything? As Dean of the law school, she proved adept at fundraising, no doubt. But this qualifies her for almost anything? What about vetting mergers and acquisitions, negotiating a contract, representing someone in a divorce, not to mention running a bakery or a bank…

The list of things that running Havahd Law School does not auto-qualify you for is almost infinitely longer than the list of things that it does. Here is the question and answer she gave last year in a questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee for her nomination as Solicitor General, part 15 Legal Career, subsection (d):

State the number of cases in courts of record you tried to verdict or judgment (rather than settled), indicating whether you were sole counsel, chief counsel, or associate counsel.

I have never tried a case to verdict or judgment.

What percentage of these trials were:
1. jury;
2. non-jury.

Not applicable; see above.

That’s not just criminal, that’s civil too. Cases come to the Supreme Court after trial and multiple appeals, not from some hypothetical on a law school exam. Would you want someone telling surgeons what the proper method for cutting someone open was, if they had never been inside an operating room? OK, what if they also skipped frog dissection in ninth grade biology?

  • Bird

    Wait, “factory”? Who calls it that?

    Outside of specializations like criminal law, as an average citizen, I’m less inclined to trust a trial lawyer on the Supreme Court.

    (Civil) trial lawyers are the people who sue you for hundreds of thousands of dollars because someone tripped over something you looked at earlier in the day. You know, the “I cannot rip out the hearts” kind of lawyer.

    Lawyers who settle are the ones who protect you from those trial lawyers.

  • Greg Jones

    Justice Robert Jackson was the last Justice on the Supreme Court who had really had a trial practice of any significance. I think we need someone on that court who actually has a clue about how the decisions that court makes will actaully play out in courtrooms across the land. I like Ms. Kagan. I want the next nominee to have had some meaningful trial experience.

  • Forest Criminal Law

    Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

    When you are facing criminal charges, every aspect of your life is subject to negative effects. Not only is your freedom threatened, but also your relationships with family and friends, your job and even your health are at risk.