Some Americans believe that every US Supreme Court justice has possessed a long and dignified career as a judge prior to the Supreme Court, however this is far from true. “The great Chief Justice” John Marshall joined the court in 1801 with no experience as a judge. Of course this has also occurred in modern times with Elena Kagan, an Associate Justice who joined in August of 2010. Other notable justices without prior judicial experience include Earl Warren, William Rehnquist, Felix Frankfurter, and Louis Brandeis. There are both advantages and disadvantages to having a non-judge serve as a justice, just as there are for experienced judges. Each viewpoint is explained in detail below.
They may understand the law from an average person’s point of view
A US Supreme Court justice should have excellent perspective. Many Americans feel that those who have been judges for a long time may have lost some of this. They believe judges do not understand what it is like to be an average American, and in certain cases, this definitely holds true. Someone who has not been a judge may be more on par with the average American. They may truly understand how these laws affect those on Main Street.
They can still have great judicial knowledge
Just because someone is not a judge does not mean that they cannot be extremely familiar with the law. They may have been lawyers and worked within the law every day of their long and illustrious careers. They may have played other roles within the judicial system. Decision-making occurs in a number of different fields, and just because they never served as a judge does not mean that they cannot have a lot of experience making significant choices.
Their judgment can be excellent
Above all, most Americans want a US Supreme Court justice who is fair in judgment. Whether or not a candidate has been a judge is irrelevant to whether they can make the right decisions. They are supposed to champion the law and Constitution to the best of their ability, and there is no reason why a non-judge cannot do so.
It gives many more options for the position
There are fewer people from whom to choose to nominate if you limit the choices to established judges. When one considers every skilled and intelligent person with relevant experience for the job of US Supreme Court justice, he or she will have a much broader choice. You may otherwise disqualify someone who could be an amazing justice.
They may not be as knowledgeable about the law
The law is a complex beast. It contains many nuances, and a US Supreme Court justice must know it intimately. They must know about many prior cases as many decisions will be based upon them. A seasoned judge may be more familiar with the law.
They may not be as familiar with the way a court runs
The running of a court is also a complicated process, especially the Supreme Court. A judge may be more familiar with this process.
Citizens may have less faith in them
Even if the person has the ability to be a great US Supreme Court justice, many Americans will not believe so because of his or her lack of experience. It may divide opinions on the candidate and make it more difficult for them to be appointed.
They may find it overwhelming
A position as a US Supreme Court justice is not considered to be an entry level position, to say the least. It is fast-paced and absolutely vital, with these few individuals making decisions that will affect millions. It can be a mighty task, even for someone with a great amount of judicial experience. Someone without such experience may find the job too much to handle.
There have been many great US Supreme Court justices without prior judicial experience. Such an occurrence includes both advantages and disadvantages. With or without the experience, the right person can make America a better place.