The Judiciary committees of the House and Senate are by far the largest and in many respects the most far-reaching legislative committees in America. Yet the two committees have somehow managed to elude description and analysis during their long and illustrious histories. In large part, this remarkable freedom from public and academic scrutiny simply recapitulates the much larger theme of congressional opacity. It is a fundamental premise of this book, and of the Congress Project as a whole, that the obscurity of the most representative branch of the national government is profoundly dispiriting to the democratic enterprise. At a minimum, the public must know and care about Congress and its "little legislatures" (as Woodrow Wilson described the committees) if it is to be restored as the lifeblood of the American body politic.
To some extent the Judiciary committees, like all units of Congress, have remained closed institutions because the members have wanted it that way, and an uninformed public has acquiesced. Justice Brandeis observed that sunlight is the best disinfectant, yet Congress has preferred the artificial light of the locked caucus room, where intrigue and an inbred, protective morality flourish.
The press and the academic chroniclers of political life must share much of the blame. The former, knowing that much, if not most, committee activity is tedious, slogging, undramatic work,