The Roberts Charade


I managed to listen to a half-hour of the Roberts’ hearings this morning before shutting it off. What’s the point? The man will quite obviously vote to overturn both Roe and Casey—anyone believing otherwise, or failing to catch the significance of his comparing Roe to the Court’s pro-segregation decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, is engaging in wishful thinking here. As Bruce Ackerman pointed out way back in February, Antonin Scalia also told the court: “I assure you I have no agenda. My only agenda is to be a good judge.” Blah blah.

So I’m not quite sure what the whole point of dancing around this issue is, with Arlen Specter trying to find ever more clever ways to get Roberts to signal his views on Roe and Roberts finding ever more clever ways to avoid it. Are we all really supposed to pretend to be fooled here? Meanwhile, I don’t quite see why Roberts even bothers with this dance: why not just say, “Yes, I pretty much think Roe is settled law?” and then overturn it (or narrow it considerably) when he gets a seat on the Supreme Court? It’s not like anyone will impeach him for misleading people at the confirmation hearings. At any rate, William Stuntz had the right idea last week when he argued that hearings for Supreme Court nomination should just be abolished. They won’t, of course—Senators need someplace to grandstand—but going through a process defined by how telegenic the nominee looks and how well he or she can avoid giving any useful information whatsoever seems pretty pointless. The only information gleaned from these hearings is that Roberts is articulate, and seems to be an even-tempered guy, two qualities which are totally irrelevant to working as a Supreme Court Justice.

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