Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Judge Roberts Eats Babies!

Well, not really, but he did say that he is a modest judge.

The actual "silly headline" was in the electronic edition of the Washington Post, to the effect that Roberts testified that he opposed judicial activism. And there I was, expecting him to give it a ringing endorsement....

The part where Roberts declined to answer questions about... well, pretty much any important issue, citing the "precedent" that prior candidates for the Supreme Court had declined to do so (in one case, that of Clarence Thomas, in adherence to advice given by Roberts himself) was... weak. The notion that a potential Justice cannot state an opinion on a past case without somehow compromising his ability to decide future cases is ridiculous. If that were the case, any dissenting Justice would have to recuse himself when the same issue came back before the court. It is perfectly reasonable to ask a potential Justice to give a stronger opinion on a major historic case than "It is established precedent" (well, duh).

Perhaps when a nominee pulls the "I can't state my opinion" canard, he should instead be invited to state what he believes are the best arguments on both sides of the issue - with the ability to present strong arguments for both sides being something Roberts himself defines as a hallmark of a good lawyer. Then he can be asked which of his arguments he personally finds more convincing. If he still can't answer, the follow-up question should be whether somebody who is so unable to state an opinion as to the relative strengths and weaknesses of his own arguments is competent to serve as a judge, let alone a Justice of the Supreme Court.

But then, perhaps confirmation hearings are more about giving Senators the chance to look good on camera, than they are about determining if a particular candidate should be confirmed.


  1. Did anyone really believe that this was about anything other than "giving Senators the chance to look good on camera"?

    Does anyone recall a time that a SC nominee gave an answer on a "legal issue" type question that actually changed the way a Senator voted?


  2. Given that Senators let nominees get away with not answering those questions, probably not. But if honest answers were given, all bets are off.


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