Lerner in Toronto Star: Judge v. Legal Celebrity

"If serving as a Supreme Court justice were to become a full-time, non-delegable job with fewer opportunities for personal aggrandizement, the justices would behave more like judges than legal celebrities," says Professor Craig Lerner in a recent research paper cited by the Toronto Star in an article examining the growing problem of media-driven promotional campaigns for aspirants to political office.  

The current focus on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's appearance and lifestyle is symptomatic of an absence of critical thought on the part of Americans and citizens abroad who have increasingly adopted a greater interest in candidates' appearance than substance, according to the article.

"[T]he packaging of politicians allows quick and easy emotional reactions to make up voters' minds, political scientists have found. With results that undermine the basis of the democratic system—to allow reasoned choices on who would best represent their interests," the article states.

"Focusing on personal attributes simply mimics the collapse of news into entertainment," says Henry Giroux of McMaster University, "But it also reduces democracy to gossip and opinion, and creates a passive attitude to power."

Judging Elena Kagan, The Toronto Star, May 22, 2010. By Olivia Ward.

"How dumpy is she? Does she dig 'chics or dudes?' And, OMG, what about that hairdo?

"These aren’t the latest fanblogs about Oprah, Kirstie Alley or Beyonce. No, they’re cybersnipes aimed at Elena Kagan, American solicitor general, former dean of Harvard Law School, and nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Kagan, due for a Senate confirmation hearing on June 28, is auditioning for a job that has massive implications for the lives and laws of Americans. But the buzz around her sex life (loose-living lesbian or sad sack singleton?) drowned out any judicial issues.

"If judges were picked on their public images alone, on fears that their lifestyles would rule their reason, heterosexuals might be rejected as potentially anti-gay, or those with spouses and children disqualified as social conservatives.

"In an age when style is everything and substance gasping on the floor, the Supreme Court is only the latest public institution to take a tumble."