Geoffrey Stone: Judicial Nominees, the ABA and the 'Liberal' Bias
In a piece in Tuesday's New York Times (March 31, 2009), Adam Liptak addressed the alleged "liberal bias" of the American Bar Association in its evaluation of presidential judicial nominees. ("As the Bar Gets Its Voice Back on Judges, Advice May Ring Familiar.")
The basic premise of the article is that the ABA has tended to give Democratic nominees more favorable ratings than Republican nominees. The assumption is that, if this is so, it demonstrates the ABA's liberal bias and therefore justifies the Bush administration's decision to downplay the role of the ABA. This assumption is simplistic, at best. Even if the ABA has found more Democratic than Republican nominees to be qualified, this proves nothing about a liberal "bias." This is so for two reasons.
First, suppose the (hypothetical) American Scientific Association (ASA), made up of the nation's scientists, is given a similar role in evaluating presidential nominees for scientific positions in the government. Suppose further that Republican nominees are more likely than Democratic nominees to believe in creationism, or intelligent design, or that stem cell research should be prohibited because it offends God's design.