In discussing Obama's nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, many right-wing commentators have pointed out that she's been overturned 60% of the time by the high court. I've got to admit, that certainly does sound like a lot. But mostly ignoring the point that that is only three times out of five (small sample size alert!), I was even more surprised to find out that that is actually less than average for decisions being overturned by the high court (And, FWIW, Alito was overturned more than average, so how good an argument does that sound like, to pursue).
After thinking about it a bit more, though, maybe that does make sense. After all, SCOTUS won't hear cases where they don't see something wrong to begin with. They're not, after all, obligated to hear every case put before them. (I imagine they'd be completely inundated if they were so obligated.) But that does seem to explain why they overturn the appeals judge in such a high percentage of the cases before them.
So it occurs to me to wonder if a better metric of judicial... competence, maybe?... might be how often SCOTUS agrees to hear cases by a particular judge. I have no idea what the numbers on that would be, either for Sotomayor in particular, or for SCOTUS in general. But it does make me curious. Of course, I suppose that also raises the issue of whether or not the losing party in any given case decides to appeal, and I'm not sure how that factors in, either.
But I think there's something there.
Of course, one problem that's being entirely overlooked in this whole thing: do we really want another appeals judge on the Supreme Court? One thing I do like about Sotomayor is that she has served as a prosecutor in the past, as well as serving as a corporate attorney. I'm not so thrilled by the latter, as I don't think business interests, in general, need any help in getting their way, but the former is important, I think.
Only one other justice has that experience (and maybe it's Souter; I forget), but we do need more justices with experience arguing cases before a court. Actually, I'd really like to see someone with experience as a public defender. They'd be used to looking out for the little guy (you know, the person who actually needs help to get what they need). Getting someone with experience as a DA or as an AG would also be useful, I think. I would have been very interested in seeing what Spitzer might have done as a justice, but apparently an affair is the only thing, these days, that automatically ends a political career. (Not that I support his having an affair, but it's a much less important issue, to me, than, for instance, starting a war under false pretenses, supporting torture, protecting the torturers from accountability (even when innocent people were tortured), supporting arbitrary imprisonment, removing government oversight of businesses, and many other issues.)