The Next Justice: Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process

By Christopher L. Eisgruber | Go to book overview

9
How to Change the Hearings

If senators can investigate nominees on the basis of their records and reputations, then why should they have to testify? They should not, answers Benjamin Wittes of the Washington Post. Wittes has recommended that the Senate do away with the practice of interrogating nominees. He writes that the hearings “almost invariably prove an embarrassing spectacle that yields minimal information.”1 In his view, “the Senate generally votes on nominees with a rough sense of who they are,” but not because of their testimony: “the nominees' testimony added virtually nothing to our understanding of these people.”2 Wittes accordingly proposes that the Senate should “vote on a nominee on the basis of his or her record and the testimony of others.”3

This bracing suggestion has something to be said for it. Wittes is right about some key points: senators, like presidents, can usually develop a good sense of a nominee's judicial philosophy on the basis of his or her record and reputation; the nominee's testimony has rarely added much to this understanding; and the hearings have degenerated into embarrassing spectacles. It is hard to believe, though,

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