The Obama administration’s search for the next Supreme Court Justice is under way. Justice David Souter’s retirement announcement earlier this month has opened up a seat on the bench. The Associated Press seems convinced that a face familiar to most Michiganders — Governor Jennifer Granholm — is on the President’s short list of nominees. It’s easy to see why. Granholm is young, recognizable, female and reliably liberal. But despite her appeal to President Barack Obama, Granholm’s nomination would set a devastating standard that could threaten the federal government’s system of checks and balances.

Let’s get one undeniable fact out of the way first. Despite Obama’s repeated campaign promises to govern moderately, he’s already taken huge steps to expand the government’s influence with little regard for his opposition’s opinion. Assuming the likely scenario that Norm Coleman loses his appeal of Al Franken’s victory in last November’s disputed Minnesota Senate race, the Democrats will control 60 Senate seats. This supermajority will block any Republican filibuster against Obama’s nominee. This is Obama’s golden opportunity to nominate a justice that will fill the shoes of the consistently liberal Souter with little opposition.

One might think an absolutely necessary requirement for a Supreme Court justice would be experience as a judge. Granholm has none. She was elected Michigan’s attorney general in 1998 and governor in 2002. In fact, her qualifications are frightfully similar to one of Obama’s admitted heroes — Earl Warren. The Supreme Court chief justice — who was also a former attorney general and governor at the time of his nomination — presided over rulings that extended the court’s influence. Granted, Warren Court rulings like Brown v. Board of Education instigated needed change in American law, but the precedent set by Warren pushed the once traditional court into a battle between the philosophies of judicial activism and judicial restraint that still rages.

But there is a major difference between Warren and Granholm. During his political career, Warren earned universal support from across the party spectrum. In the 1946 California gubernatorial election, Warren won the Republican, Democratic and Progressive Party primaries. Granholm, on the other hand, has participated in three divisive elections in which her political biases were on full display. If nominated, Granholm could be the most politically charged justice in over 50 years, and the first in this new era of power for the Supreme Court.

A nomination of such a political figure would cause more damage than any other nominee on Obama’s short list. For example, Diane Wood, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge from Chicago, leans to the left and is a favorite to receive Obama’s nomination. Her rulings might be just as liberal as Granholm’s would be, but at least her appointment wouldn’t jeopardize the Court’s credibility.

The appointment of career politicians like Granholm to the Court would undermine its separation from the executive and legislative branches. There is a reason why justices are traditionally non-political figures and are given lifetime terms. The Supreme Court is supposed to transcend politics in order to correctly apply our laws without bias. The nomination of a blatantly political justice would only increase these problems and is the last thing the court needs, especially when the court wields so much power and is more politicized than ever.

Despite the ease with which her confirmation could pass the Senate, Granholm would be one of the least qualified and most politicized justices in the last 100 years. Residing in a judicial body which is supposed to interpret the law in a politically unbiased way, Granholm would be exactly the kind of voice that the Founding Fathers were trying to keep out of the nation’s highest court.

There’s hope that Obama is smart enough to realize he doesn’t need to corrupt the Supreme Court with party politics in order to nominate a justice that will reliably walk the liberal line. But with a potential nominee as politically attractive as Granholm, I’m hesitant to believe he’ll be able resist her appeal.

Chris Koslowski can be reached at cskoslow@umich.edu.

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