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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito hearings - Day one

A few rambling thoughts from the first day of the Senate confirmation hearings on Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.

My first reaction to the proceedings is the process needs to be seriously streamlined. There are 18 senators on the Judiciary Committee. Yesterday, the hearings started with opening statements from each and every senator for 10 minutes to bloviate about their positions on various issues that may come before the court and what they want these hearings to cover. Today each senator gets to question Judge Alito for 30 minutes. I'd recommend either reducing the number of senators on the committee or having both the Republicans and Democrats appoint one or two senators to make opening statements. It is somewhat ironic that a senate that recently passed legislation prohibiting torture of terrorists would turn around and conduct a session like what we witnessed yesterday.

My second reaction was how repetitive the comments were in the opening statements. I suppose Kennedy gets some credit for originality since he made up a new name for the nominee. It seemed to me that each of the Democrat senators made some mention of the "fact" that the justice Alito will replace, Sandra O'Connor, was the decisive fifth vote in a certain number of 5 to 4 decisions. Does the Supreme Court announce after each ruling who got to be number 5 on that decision? Even if she is the "swing vote" she is described to be, is that necessarily a good thing?

Several of the senators made pointed comments about Judge Alito replacing the first female justice and that his joining the bench will reduce the female vote by 50%. Except showing that Sen. Schumer can do fourth grade math, why does that matter. Personally, the comments saying that a woman's point of view is represented by O'Connor or Ginsburg is actually very insulting to the two justices' judicial integrity. They should be ruling based on the applicable case law and the facts at hand. For some senator to allege that they have been ruling based on their gender is extremely demeaning to their professionalism.

The final event in yesterdays hearings was the nominee's opening statement. I don't know if I'd be able to form a complete sentence after having to listen to the senators babble all afternoon. Judge Alito did very well. Like Chief Justice Roberts, Alito did not refer to notes and spoke extemporaneously. He did seem fairly nervous at the beginning, but got into a flow and relaxed as he went on about his family history. Also repeating a theme from the Roberts hearing, Alito emphasized the importance of impartiality. His key point is that a judge has no client but the law and he's right.


Blogger Crazy Politico said...

For years this was a streamlined process. It wasn't until the early part of the last century that nominees even came to the Senate for questions. When they did the whole process took about an hour. Byron White (Whizzer) took about 15 minutes.

When the Warren Court showed the left that the court could be used as a psuedo policy making arm then the hearings started getting longer, as they tried protecting the pet projects.

2:10 AM


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