Friday, November 24, 2006

More on lay justices

Mike's interesting post on the idea of non-lawyer justices on the Supreme Court brings to mind a recent article by Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School, entitled "Should We Have Lay Justices?" In a word, Vermeule's answer is "yes." As he says in the abstract, "I argue that the optimal number of lay justices [on the Supreme Court] is greater than zero. In the strong form of the argument, an historian, economist, doctor, accountant, soldier or some other nonlawyer professional should be appointed to the Court. In a weaker form of the argument, we should at least appoint dual-competent justices - lawyers who also have a degree or some other real expertise in another body of knowledge or skill."

There's quite a difference between the "strong" and "weak" forms of Vermeule's argument. The former calls for lay justices drawn from other fields; the latter calls for justices trained in the law who are also expert in some other field -- viz., for interdisciplinary justices. Let's focus just on the latter version. What do readers think of it, as opposed to what we have now? Interdisciplinarity is increasingly common in the legal academy, or at least in some sectors of it. I tend to think that's a very good thing, even as I continue to think (somewhat self-interestedly) that there remains an important role for more conventional disciplinary scholarship as well. But what do readers think of the call for interdisciplinarity at the Court? I have a few thoughts of my own on that score, but before offering them I want to hear what others think.