Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Advocating in the Judicial Branch

It's funny that when some people think of "advocacy" they think almost instantly of lawyers. In fact, many definitions of "advocate" at indicate that an advocate is someone who pleads for a cause in a court of law. And yet ironically, the judicial branch of government has been, in many ways, the most closed off to the type of citizen advocacy I'm usually talking about.

This makes it doubly interesting that President Obama has decided to nominate someone who he admires because she has "an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live" (from one of the Washington Post articles on this topic). If you think about it, in the way the world really works, citizens want to avoid the judicial system at all costs. But it sounds like President Obama and his pick for the Supreme Court might actually be looking at our court system as a venue in which the barriers and obstacles that citizens many face are overcome. I'm wondering if this will be possible in an environment where citizens are rarely effectively heard?

Certainly, as was seen in the case of the U.S. Senate's refusal to ratify the nomination of Judge Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, citizens can have a say in who might actually be placed on the court. But in that case, their voices were heard by their duly elected representatives in the Senate.

What I find interesting about this choice, and many of the choices of the Obama Administration, is that he and his team seem to be bringing that ethos of "citizen engagement" to all levels of governance -- even a branch that has traditionally been almost completely removed from the input of "regular people." I wonder if it will work? I guess we'll have to wait and see!

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