Gen X prepares to take the bench

David Lat has a typically insightful post at Above the Law, looking at the potential nominees for openings in the federal district courts and federal circuit courts. One of the more striking parts of his analysis is the relative youth of many of the names being kicked around — most are in their 30s or 40s.  This makes sense from the President’s perspective; younger judges allow him to shape the federal bench for decades to come.  But it is also a moment of reckoning for those of us in that generation.

Gen X’ers, of course, already occupy significant posts in the federal government.  Senators Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz; Congressmen Joaquin Castro and Jared Polis; Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner; Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; and many others spring readily to mind.  But the judicial posts seem as significant, if not more, because of their longevity.  Yes, Gen X judges (like their forebears) will be able to shape the law.  But their nominations — whenever they come — will also signal a commitment to public service that is, at least in theory, a life’s work.

We can also expect that Gen X judges, regardless of their personal ideology, will approach the law and the act of judging somewhat differently than their predecessors.  Their childhoods will have been influenced by the specter of Soviet communism followed by relative peace and prosperity, their young adult lives colored by the threat of terrorism.  They have lived through rapid technological change which has dramatically altered the way we communicate and share information. They (we) have also seen significant social change — ideas and actions that were considered taboo fifteen years ago are now embraced, while ideas that were formerly embraced are now shunned.  Like every generation before them, they will confront aging parents, growing children, personal challenges, social change, and further technological advances. It will be fascinating to see what mark this generation leaves on the judiciary — and on the country.

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