State courts are vitally important in their own right, but they can also serve as credential-building “pit stops” for judges ultimately bound for the federal courts or even the U.S. Supreme Court. For example, on SCOTUS, Justices David Souter and William Brennan previously served on their respective states’ supreme courts, as did U.S. Court of Appeals judges Diane Sykes (7th Circuit) and Janice Brown (D.C. Circuit). Without demeaning the significance of state courts, or suggesting that state courts are (or should be) a mere stepping stone to the federal bench, one can view them as analogous to the “farm team” in baseball, where future major league players are frequently groomed and tested.
Given the age and health of some current SCOTUS justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82 and ailing; several others are approaching 80—it is likely that the next President will have the opportunity to name several new justices—a lasting and influential legacy. Thus, noteworthy state court appointments can provide insight into the pool of potential federal court (or even SCOTUS) nominees by either party. In California, however, Brown’s appointments have been uniformly liberal, so center-right candidates will have to be considered in a future post (leads are welcome).
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