May 24, 2012

The [Sheldon] Whitehouse Standard

Marc Comtois

David Scharfenberg points to an interview that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse did with ThinkProgress in which he claims the five Supreme Court justices who ruled against Whitehouse's preference on Citizens United shouldn't have even been allowed to rule because they didn't have the right experience to judge:

Unfortunately you had the five right-wing judges, none of whom have ever run for any office ever and have zero political experience between the five of them, offering opinions about what money can do in elections...The President asked me who I thought, you know, what were the characteristics of somebody that should be appointed to the Court, and I said I think it should be somebody who has some actual political experience out there so that they are not operating in this political arena with absolutely no knowledge. Even if they wanted to come to the result that Citizens United came to, I think those judges would have had a hard time getting there if they’d had actual practical political experience because they would have known what a preposterous finding they were making.
What a facile viewpoint (and I'm pretty sure that none of the 4 liberal judges meet the Whitehouse standard, either). Well, if that is the new standard by which we're supposed to adjudicate, or legislate, then I can think of any number of things that Senator Whitehouse should stay away from. So I guess we should expect him to refrain from speaking or offering legislation on anything but silver spoons and tort reform from here on out.

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While I was in law school, I worked intermittently for the RI Attorney General and the RI US Attorney's office. All of the attorneys in each office said that Whitehouse was the worst AG/US Attorney they had ever worked for - poor judgment, poor legal knowledge, and prone to fits of unprofessional rage. Supposedly he tried to remove a number of people in the latter office for political reasons before being informed that doing so was illegal. These extremely foolish statements are consistent with that picture. They demonstrate a disturbing lack of respect for the role of legal system and also that he doesn't understand the proper role and qualifications of a judge.

Posted by: Dan at May 24, 2012 9:18 AM

A few thoughts on this . . .

1. Although I don't agree with his "analysis" of Citizens United, I think Sen. Whitehouse has a valid point about the value on the Supreme Court of Justices who have served in elective office. Past Supreme Court Justices have served as President (Taft), Governor (e.g., Warren), Senator (e.g., Byrnes, Black) state legislator (e.g., O'Connor), mayor (Burton), or state supreme court judge (Brennan, Holmes, Cardozo, etc.) The present Court contains no one with such experience; they are all, save one, former U.S. Court of Appeals Judges.

2. That said, apparently I value Sen. Whitehouse's view more than Pres. Obama does -- the Senator gave his opinion when asked and then the President promptly ignored it, appointing Justice Sotomayor from the Court of Appeals, and Justice Kagan, who had no prior experience in judicial or elective office.

Posted by: brassband at May 24, 2012 3:57 PM

@Dan-you are so correct.I worked with USAttorneys all over the country(actually,their offices)and Whitehouse was the worst by far.He had the most miserable and incompetent people running things and tried to kneecap the best assistants.
Arrogant,stupid,and unprofessional are just for starters,because he ignored political corruption during his tenure there and as AG.A real piece of sh*t.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 24, 2012 8:18 PM

Joe --

To concur with your views . . . Ted Gale, a real professional, was the First Assitant when Linc Almond was U.S. Attorney.

Sheldon downgraded Gale, who ultimately went on to an appointment to the R.I. Superior Court (by Gov. Almond).

Sheldon's tenure both as U.S.Atty and RIAG was dominated by his political ambition. Although Linc Almond had his own political ambitions, I don't think they ever played any role in his administration as U.S. Atty.

Posted by: brassband at May 24, 2012 9:27 PM

Brassband seems to desire to return to a time when appointment to the Supreme Court was sort of like and appointment to the Harvard School of Government, a spot for out of work politicians.

I especially liked his reference to Earl Warren, one of the "Great Liberals". He had also been a force behind the Japanese Internment, and if my memory is correct, he gave a speech about Blacks having smaller brains.

After appointment, he was "Born again". This doubles the chances of brain damage. As a kid, I remember visiting relatives in the South, every major road had a billboard which read "Save Our Republic, Impeach Earl Warren". These were sponsored by the John Birch Society. I think this was in response to his decision in Brown v. The Board of Education.

I am not sure I want judges predisposed to favor the system which nurtured them.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 24, 2012 9:36 PM

@Brassband-Linc Almond may have had political ambitions,but his office was run without politics.Almond was competent and he appointed good people to administer it.Gale was one of them.The current First Assistant,Ken Madden,was always a first rate prosecutor who wasn't exactly on Shelly's "A"list either.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 25, 2012 12:22 AM

Joe --

I am familiar with Ken's record in the R.I.A.G.'s office....he was a first rate trial attorney who prosecuted some very challenging cases...always did a terrific job with great professionalism. His departure for the U.S. Atty's Office was a great loss to A.G.'s department. Many, many efforts over the years to lure him back . . .

Posted by: brassband at May 25, 2012 7:21 AM

LOL, brassband, if you know all that, we probably know each other.

Posted by: Dan at May 25, 2012 7:52 AM

I'm with Warrington as far as the SCOTUS selections. The pessimist in me says that you can shine a turd but it's still a turd.

Staying with the turd theme, Whitehouse couldn't amount to a pimple on either Madden or Gale's asses. Did he ever prosecute a case?

Posted by: Max D at May 25, 2012 9:21 AM

"Did he ever prosecute a case?"

Interesting question.

Sheldon served in the RIAG's office (from 1985-90) as a special assistant and then assistant in the Civil Division.

I have heard that at some point he begged to be assigned a criminal case to try (presumably so that he could later claim prosecutorial experience), and that he was given such a case shortly before he left the RIAG's office.

True or urban legend? Dunno.

Posted by: brassband at May 25, 2012 10:56 AM

@Max D-I made that remark personally to Shelly at Mike Stone's retirement dinner when he showed up to campaign(not,mind you to stay and honor Mike,a great guy and 100% disabled Vietnam Vet)-Shelly shook hands with everyone at the table,including Steve Pare and a few police chiefs and I didn't offer to so he said"I don't think I know you"-I replied that I was an agent for the INS previously and he'd been US Attorney during my last few years on the job,but I only got to know the people who actually tried cases-he turned on his heel and huffed off like the useless fop he is.Of course,when Linc Almond was US Attorney,he knew every agent of every agency personally.Linc was hands on without appearing to be,because he chose to surround himself with people he could depend on,such as Ted Gale.
BTW Sheldon and Mike Stone aren't on the same planet when it came to prosecuting a case-I worked with Mike and Det,Fred Johnson of the State Police for 7 years on a murder case-we eventually got three convictions despite a mistrial,a year long hunt for a fugitive,and witnesses who were illegal aliens that had to be kept track of.Shelly would've blown it,yet he couldn't stay for Mike's time-just flitted in and out like a fart in a windstorm.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 26, 2012 11:31 AM

This being Memorial Day weekend,I'd just mention that Ted Gale was a naval aviator in Vietnam and Mike Stone was a Marine officer and was severely wounded.
Shelly was at play on the fields of some prep school,I'm sure.
Guys like Gale,Madden,and Stone make me hesitate to generalize too much about lawyers.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 26, 2012 11:37 AM
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