Stare Decisis

First, a couple of personal disclosures related to the ongoing hearings in Washington DC:

1. I think that Judge Alito is very qualified to sit on the Supreme Court and should be confirmed.
2. I haven’t watched a single bit of the hearings live (really haven’t needed to, because it is all so tired and predictable, but I will get to that later). My observations are based on news reports, talk radio, and very small segments of the live hearing that I was able to catch on public radio (including an interesting discussion during the lunch break on Midday).

Supreme Court confirmation hearings should be about making sure that the President’s nominee is qualified to do the job. The purpose of the hearing is a sort of check to make sure that the Executive Branch does not abuse its nominating power by rubber stamping old drinking buddies through the process.

It has become clear to this observer that the current hearings for Sam Alito’s nomination have become more about a group of politicians posturing themselves for future elections and doing whatever they can to further the respective parties’ agenda.

Here are the rules: if you are a Republican Senator, you throw softball questions at Alito, and try to characterize him in the best light possible. If you are a Senator among the Democrats, you grill him, accuse him, and express your reservations about all of his views, implying throughout that he is outside of the mainstream and dangerous to the court. Meanwhile, both parties take this opportunity to grandstand before the public, offering long-winded diatribes in lieu of thoughtful questions.

Let me be clear, it is important during these hearings for Judge Alito to express his judicial philosophy to the committee and to the country. To that end, the hearings are necessary. I just wish that the politicians involved would take them more seriously, and not treat the proceedings like a political commercial they run during their campaigns. The result is that Alito becomes no more than a political pawn, and the hearings are not about him in the least.

It’s a shame. Judge Alito has more judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in recent history, and he shows a thoughtfulness when it comes to the law, not necessarily falling in line with one party or the current administration.

He does fall into the category of “conservative”; but what would one suspect being that he was nominated by a Republican president? That’s the way the system works. If you don’t want a conservative judge nominated, get your candidate elected President.

It is a two way street, however, and I have no doubt that if the roles were reversed, Republicans would be pounding their chests using buzzwords like “activist judges” to paint the liberal nominee as an out-of-the-mainstream whacko.

In the end, all of the political posturing and personal grandstanding leaves me nauseous, and is the main reason that, though my interest in government remains, I am turned off by the bickering and shameless self-promotion that I hear from my elected officials.


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