The Senate's Role in Judicial Selection

By Melone, Albert P. | Judicature, January/February 2005 | Go to article overview

The Senate's Role in Judicial Selection


Melone, Albert P., Judicature


The Senate's role in judicial selection Seeking Justices: The Judging of Supreme Court Nominees, by Michael Comiskey. University Press of Kansas. 2004. 287 pages. $40.00 cloth, $17.95 paper.

Scholars typically toil for years to produce what they hope will be a significant contribution to knowledge. But it is a real bonus when one's work also proves timely. Michael Comiskey's book appears at one such moment in U.S. history. It is likely that politicians and interest groups will soon treat Americans to a huge debate about the proper role of the U.S. Senate in the selection of persons to serve on the nation's highest court. The same applies to the vacant seats on the U.S. district and appellate courts. It is true that we have had the debate before, especially with respect to the failed accession of Robert Bork and the near-failed confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. But given the likelihood of a change in at least three members over the next four years, with the ideological balance on the Court clearly at stake, a reprise political performance is highly probable.

The author frames the debate as one between two broadly conceived viewpoints-the legalist and the political. The legalist school emphasizes professional legal credentials and counsels less emphasis upon nominees' ideological predispositions and a concomitant de-emphasis if not elimination of the role of interest groups and media in the Senate's advice and consent role. Proponents of the political school decry the senators' difficulty, and in some cases utter frustration, in uncovering the political and ideological beliefs of the nominees appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. They believe disclosure is important because senators should make informed judgments about the likely decisional behavior of confirmed justices and judges. They also maintain that the Senate shares with the president the responsibility of selecting the right persons to serve on the bench, which in the final analysis is a political institution.

Professor Comiskey concludes that the legalist position is mistaken, but he qualifies his endorsement of the political school by claiming that too many advocates of this position overstate the Senate's inability to obtain pertinent information from the nominees. He believes there is sufficient information available from a variety of sources for senators to make an informed judgment of the ideological proclivities of nominees, even those who insist upon "stealthy" testimony.

This highly readable eight-chapter book contains considerable information necessary when evaluating the problem of the role of the Senate in judicial selection. Chapters 2 through 4 treat the various legalist claims. The author tested the legalist contention that the modern practices surrounding the confirmation process tend to produce justices who are not as great as those of an earlier era, when the confirmation process was more gentile. He admits that some may interpret his survey results of active scholars of the Supreme Court as supporting the legalist position, although he adds a number of important qualifications to that conclusion.

In Chapter 5, detailing the Clarence Thomas confirmation battle, Comiskey proves himself an equal opportunity hasher. He condemns Thomas himself, his White House handlers, and his Senate supporters for the disrespectful manipulation of the Senate, and his senatorial opponents who displayed a lack of political courage to respond to the race card played by Thomas and his supporters.

In Chapter 6, the author examines closely the political school position that the Senate has conllrmed justices without adequate information. From the perspective of democratic theory, he tends to agree that the more information, the better. Yet Comiskey believes, with the sole exception of David Souter, that senators have been able to gather sufficient information permitting them to identify nominees' legal ideologies and to predict their future behavior as high court members.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Senate's Role in Judicial Selection
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.