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Thursday, April 13, 2006 

Time is a Factor

I love titles with dual meanings. It's strange how things work out sometimes. I am usually pretty good about keeping Eminent Domain updated and fresh, but I have been lagging lately. There hasn't been much legal news that I want to talk about in the past week. There haven't been any Supreme Court decisions handed down in quite a while. Even the appeals courts haven't produced anything that has caught my eye. Aside from the lack of fresh material, I haven't had a lot of time to go digging for more obscure material. I'm in the middle of the mad application rush for the summer. I've been churning out cover letters like some kind of cover letter churning machine. Compound that with the ever looming Sword of Damocles that is the exam season, and the result is a crappy time to be me.

It's especially frustrating because I just got linked on Confirm Them (a big thank you to the Confirm Them folks). I haven't been linked on many "big" websites, just Point of Law for ridiculing Laurence Tribe, Slashdot during the dental school blogger fiasco, and Project D.U (presented by AT&T!) for a partial birth abortion post. One would think that with the possible increased readership from winning a place on the fairly illustrious Confirm Them blogroll would get me posting like crazy with my A list material. Yes, one would think that.

Now on to some actual substance. Speaking of Confirm Them, they have an interesting post about recent remarks made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The CT post examines her slamming of originalism, but I want to focus on something else that she said...
[A] threat that can't “"be ... easily discounted," she continued, is in the confirmation process for judicial nominees, which Ginsburg likened to a "“political hazing." The process, she said, risks politicizing the judiciary, so that decisions are rendered along party lines.

In earlier remarks to a media law class at the NU College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Ginsburg recalled a conversation with Warren Burger, former Supreme Court chief justice. Burger told Ginsburg his confirmation hearing took one hour. Hers lasted four days, she told the students.
Can we even wrap our brains around that idea these days? I know I can't. The first Supreme Court confirmation hearing that I have any personal memory of is the Clarence Thomas hearing. I would love to be able to blame the length of the Thomas hearings on the fact Joe Biden was committee chairman, but there were other circumstances involved. With the Burger situation, he was a Nixon appointee replacing the beloved-by-some, reviled-by-others Earl Warren. Yet the entire hearing took only one hour. In today's political climate (and depending on the committee chairman), that hearing would probably last well over a week.

I think that these hearings got out of hand after the Robert Bork nomination. They became political platforms for preening senators and wannabe presidents. Justice Ginsburg is right; they have become a political hazing. It's that kind of hazing that keeps highly qualified individuals from serving in the judiciary. They don't want to put themselves and their families through it.

I think that the hearings should be limited. Especially in modern times, any damning information about a nominee will not come to light in the hearings. It will be found by a journalist, a blogger, a staffer, or an interest group. The hearings don't bring those incidents to light; investigative work BEFORE the hearings brings those incidents to light.

I'm not saying that we have to go back to the days of Justice Byron White's nomination by President Kennedy (White's hearing was 15 minutes long and consisted of 8 questions), but the current process is excessive. The hearings are simply an opportunity for senators to ask stupid questions that they don't understand, score political points with their base, and waste the nominee's time. Let the FBI do the background check, the senators can have their meetings, and the interest groups can do their research. Then have the shorter hearing. Small changes in the process will do a lot to prevent good nominees from declining to serve.

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  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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