Monday, September 12, 2005

Roberts Confirmation: Let the Games Begin

The Senate Judiciary Committee today opened the first confirmation hearing for a chief justice nominee in nearly two decades, as federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts Jr. appeared before senators seeking to probe his views and judicial philosophy.
I'm betting the left [Middle English, from Old English lyft-, weak, useless (in lyftdl, paralysis)] side of the aisle will use this - the elevation of the nomination to chief - as a reason to hold the bar higher, as if they could, or should. Which is reasonable, since the chief justice gets, like, two votes to everyone else's. Right?

Oh. I guess not. The chief justice serves as presiding officer of the court, manager of the court's operations, and is head of the federal judicial branch of the US government. The only enumerated power is that of presiding over an impeachment trial. The CJ traditionally:

- presides over the private conference where the court decides which lower court cases to hear
- presides over the public hearings of cases
- chairs the private discussion of court cases
- as the senior member of a majority decision, may decide who writes the opinion
- administers the oath of office at presidential inaugurations
- as the head of the Judicial Conference of the United States, is empowered by the Rules Enabling Act to promulgate rules to ensure the smooth operation of the federal courts.

Among those commenting were Senators Leahy and Feinstein:

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said in opening remarks, "The judiciary is the most isolated branch of our government from public accountability. So this hearing is the only opportunity for the American people to examine what kind of justice John Roberts will dispense."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she will ask Roberts about "the constitutional right to privacy" as it deals with abortion rights.

"I am concerned by a trend on the court to limit this right and thereby to curtail the autonomy we have fought for and achieved," said Feinstein, the only woman on the committee. "It would be very difficult . . . for me to vote to confirm someone whom I knew would overturn Roe v. Wade ."
Apparently Feinstein has forgotten Roberts' comments during his 2003 confirmation, that Roe v. Wade was "the law of the land." Leahy, for his part, is either myopic or too puffed up with self-importance to think straight - this is far from the only opportunity to examine Roberts. Perhaps the Senator hasn't noticed, but Roberts has been on trial since his nomination, and his record has been combed by every association and political agitant group hoping to Bork a Bush nominee.

Cross-posted at Guide to Midwestern Culture.


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