Thursday, May 6, 2010

Westerner on short-list for Supreme Court

Judge Sydney Thomas of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals interviewed with President Obama yesterday in Washington, DC. Read John Schwartz's report in today's New York Times. While the word "rural" is not used in the story, Judge Thomas's Montana roots suggest he is a lot more in touch with rural realities than anyone else on the court. Actually, Thomas grew up in Bozeman, which currently has a population of 35,538 and is home to Montana State University. It is the county seat of Gallatin County, which had a 2008 population of 87,416 and seems likely to be designated a metropolitan county in the 2010 Census. Though Bozeman and Gallatin County are now examples of rural gentrification (read more here), as a child, Judge Thomas surely knew them when they were not. He knows a more, shall we say, traditional or authentic rurality than that now reflected in many parts of the Big Sky state.

Schwartz does make the point that Thomas would bring diversity to the Court in several ways: he's protestant; he's from the West; and he is a graduate of non-elite educational institutions--Montana State University and the University of Montana School of Law. He also practiced law for 17 years, with bankruptcy an apparent specialty.

Judge Thomas was appointed to the Ninth Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

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