Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Judicial Nominee Transparency? Thank Ted Kennedy

Senators want changes in judicial confirmation hearings

Two Democratic senators said Tuesday they're not happy with how the Senate Judiciary Committee conducts confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees.

As the committee prepared to vote on Sonia Sotomayor's nomination, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., bemoaned what he called a "familiar pattern" in confirmation hearings. Nominees, he said, take the "path of least resistance" when they refuse to answer almost all of senators' questions about the substance of law...

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said the process fails to educate either the public or the Senate about a nominee. It makes no sense, he said, that the only person in the United States who cannot express an opinion on recent Supreme Court rulings "is the person from whom the public most needs to hear it."

"These hearings have become little more than theater," Feingold said, "where senators try to ask clever questions and nominees try to come up with clever answers."

These senators could ask Robert Bork why judicial nominees are unwilling to answer questions the committee asks. Here's what Ted Kennedy said at the time:
Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is -- and is often the only -- protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice."

Now Vice President Joe Biden so misrepresented Bork's writing as to define the word lying. The behavior of Democrats during the Bork nomination was so outrageous that no nominee should ever again give an honest answer about their judicial philosophy. Why should they when it is the surest path to disqualification?