Saturday, September 26, 2009

Senatorial Failure

(This blog entry is part of the This American Life* series)

When Justices Roberts and Alito were being questioned by the senate judiciary committee, I followed the proceedings carefully on the radio. I’ve become a constitution-geek. I found the answers by John Roberts interesting, clear and straight-forward.

When many weeks ago Sonia Sotomayor was being questioned, I found it a total waster of time. I wrote this down in the beginning of August, but it got stuck in the draft section of my blog. Jeffrey Toobin in the July 27 New Yorker magazine had a nice write up on the subject.

Answers such as “my judicial philosophy – simple: fidelity to the law” are a dog and pony show. For many cases brought to the Supreme Court, no clear law exists. Justices have to make choices and cast it in the light of their interpretation of the majestic vagueness of the Constitution.

As Jeffrey Toobin put it “The issues are difficult and profound and require a lifetime of study to master, and one would hope that justices arrive with heads full of firm ideas abou the document they are charged with understanding.”

Any observer could have drafted the answers Sotomayor would provide: “follow the law”, “interpret the law”, “don’t legislate from the bench”, “can’t state opinion on hypothetical cases” etc.

So unless the senators start asking real questions probing beyond vague answers, these hearings are a #failure.

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