Monday, January 30, 2006

What is the Purpose of Confirmation Hearings of Nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court?

It is a simple enough question that has a simple, straightforward answer.

According to our Constitution, the Senate has the right and responsibility to consent or agree to certain actions by the President, and approving nominations to the Supreme Court is one of them. The job of the Senate in such cases is to determine whether or not nominees are qualified for the position, and that involves looking at the nominee’s training, experience and temperament for the position. Nominees with appropriate training and experience, and without some unusual behavior in their past, should be approved and take their seat on the Court.

A nominee to the Supreme Court should be neutral politically, neither politically liberal nor politically conservative, neither Republican nor Democrat. Political views have no place in the proceedings and rulings of the U. S. Supreme Court.

A nominee should be judicially conservative, and that is a very different thing than being politically conservative. A judicial conservative is someone who leaves ideology at the door and rules on cases before him or her according to the guiding principles of the Constitution and legal precedent, properly arrived at. A Justice is not to make laws or policies to be imposed on the citizenry through a non-representative judicial process. One who indulges in the making of laws from the bench is a judicial activist and has a liberal judicial philosophy. Justices are supposed to rule on the constitutionality of laws and policies made by the appropriate branches of government, laws made through elected representatives in the Congress, and policies designed by the Executive branch.

People of every political philosophy ought to appreciate the importance of political neutrality in the judicial system. That is the only way to avoid judicial anarchy. You might like what one political philosophy advocates, but when/if another gets “power” you might not like it so well. Better to leave politics out of the Judiciary.

The Senate passes the responsibility of the initial examination of nominees to the Supreme Court to the Judiciary Committee, a group of 18 senators, which is to objectively evaluate the nominee and either approve or disapprove the nomination based on consideration of objective criteria. Nominees approved by the Committee are then voted on by the entire Senate, and 51 votes approve the nomination.

The nomination of Judge Samuel Alito derailed the moment it reached the Judiciary Committee, when the Democrat members of the Committee, who speciously, perhaps deceptively, set out to evaluate Judge Alito not from the proper position of political neutrality, but instead from a position far to the political left.

Judge Alito indicated in his answers to questions from Committee members a conservative judicial philosophy, a position devoid of political ideological interference. That the Democrats either actually believed that Judge Alito held conservative political views, or merely used their time to disingenuously try to persuade the rest of us of that flight of the imagination, is illustrative of the degree to which they were unable or unwilling to discharge the duty assigned to them as members of the Judiciary Committee.

To those of us who were objectively listening, Judge Alito proved himself to be thoroughly qualified, not only in terms of judicial training, experience and temperament, but also in terms of judicial philosophy. He is a man who will apply the Constitution and legal precedent fairly and without extraneous factors entering into his decisions, like political ideology.

That, however, is not what the Democrat members of the Committee wanted; they wanted a political liberal to fill the Court’s vacancy.

It appears that Judge Alito will be approved and take his seat on the Court this week. We should all be thankful that this attempt to inject partisan politics into the judicial nomination process has failed, and we should make it known, in no uncertain terms, that such political chicanery is not appreciated.

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