Supreme Court Nominees

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Judge Roberts was a home run for the Bush Administration.

Listening to the hearings last week, I got the immediate impression that he was even more impressive than his press clippings which were impressive indeed. This impression never left me throughout the grueling sessions, all of which I watched with rapt attention.

What was not apparent from the hearings is the generally superior intelligence and training of the Senate Judiciary Commitee staffs and of the various interest group staffs trying to influence the Committee, all of whom are jockeying for the limelight in these rare events. Having worked in Washington, I can vouch for the generally high level of competence of Senate staffs.

Also keep in mind that the seating of a Chief Justice of the United States has happened before only 17 times in the nation's history. Only two of those were the subjects of nationally televised hearings: Burger in 1969, and Rehnquist in 1986 (Fortas was nominated by LBJ in 1968, but was not confirmed). That the Roberts hearing was indeed historic was no exaggeration. Moreover, the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had much to prove. They were showcasing their jurisprudential philosophy for all to see, and they wanted to demonstrate to everyone their concern for the "little fellow". The amount of preparation for this event cannot be overstated.

Being an old (or "senior" as I prefer to be labelled) lawyer, I have worked closely with big firm lawyers and law students since 1962. Most graduated high in their classes from first class law schools. Many clerked for federal judges. A few clerked for Justices of the Supreme Court. In the law business, these talented, hard working folks were the equivalent of major league professional sports team members. Even so, few were so far ahead of the crowd that one could say with certainty that they were truly superlative so that they really stood out.

But I can say without hesitation that for my money, Judge Roberts was the judicial equivalent of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Jim Brown, Bobby Jones, Johnny Unitas, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. All rolled into one. He was that impressive.

Here's the proof: The ideologically liberal Washington Post and Los Angeles Times editorial pages supported this nominee of the often vilified GWB whom neither supports. When did another Republican nominee achieve that feat?

Now what?

It will be impossible to top Judge Roberts. But there are a number of exceedingly fine judges on the federal bench. I do not know any of them the way I now know Judge Roberts, but here's my advice: Nominate someone who impresses with a career marked with intelligence, integrity, fairness and modesty. Forget anyone who has demonstrated arrogance, certainty, cockiness and ideological narrowness. Make sure in the interview the nominee's personal qualities match the career reputation. Listen to what the nominee's past and present colleagues say about him or her to verify the presence of those good qualities and the absence of the bad ones. Then, hope such a nominee can perform 80% as well in the hearing as Judge Roberts. Lastly keep in mind a double ain't bad.


flenser said...

So Jim, of the likely canidates which have been discussed, are there any which you feel would not measure up to the standard you have described?

And regardless of the quality of the candidate, isn't it almost a forgone conclusion that the Dem's will try to filibuster?

Knucklehead said...


Your insight on this is very much appreciated. Thank you.

I did not raptly watch the confirmation hearings but I did catch bits and pieces. From what I did catch the thing that came through most was "a pearl among swine". He was clearly, to me at least, intellectually superior to the interview panel. That doesn't, of course, necessarily equate to "right for the job" but it is a reasonable indicator to pay attention to.

Purely anecdotal on my part but I find that the "usual supects" (the raving moonbats I have regular access to) are downright loud in their silence re: Roberts. I'm not hearing a peep on this matter. The more general perception is along the lines of, "Wow! That's one smart cookie there!"

David Thomson said...

“And regardless of the quality of the candidate, isn't it almost a forgone conclusion that the Dem's will try to filibuster?”

The Democrats will not dare filibuster any of President Bush’s nominees. That war is over. The American public will only be irritated. What has changed since the “borking” of Robert Bork? It is the increasing influence of the blogging community. We are able to almost immediately put a stop to the shenanigans of the Democratic Party and their allies in the MSM. A number of Democrat senators reside in red states. These politicians cannot afford to act like fools. Ted Kennedy may have a very safe seat---but they don’t!

vnjagvet said...

As I hinted in my post, I do not know any of the candidates personally or at a human level, so I do not know who measures up to the standard I described.

I think the chance of a filibuster increases inversely with quality of the performance before the committee. If the witness is outstanding as Roberts was the filibuster becomes suicidal for any democrat not in a safe senate seat. At the other extreme, if the witness comes off as arrogant, cocksure, mean, venal or foolish, a filibuster becomes a more viable alternative.

Make no mistake, the job of the opposition be it lobbying group, staff or senator is to find a chink in the nominee's armor and parlay that into peeling off overt republican support or covert republican support via the filibuster.

Watch the human side of this, not the legal side. If you think the nominee is a jerk, the road to confirmation will be rough. If you think the nominee comes across as a decent, fair human being with a judicious temperament, confirmation will be a done deal.

jim said...

I think the best bets now are Patricia Owen or Edith Jones. Neither are ideologues, both have been confirmed before, and from what I understand, each presents as a solid citizen. If that understanding is correct neither could be successfully filibustered, IMO.

jim said...

Patrica should be Priscilla. Oh my!!

Rick Ballard said...

Just to confuse the political side of the issue a bit more,Leahy announces that he will vote for Roberts. The MA contingent are united as one (which elevates them to a full halfwit) against Roberts.

The next nomination is going to be very interesting. We'll see if Specter can actually exert control in committee should a strong conservative be appointed. I don't know much about Priscilla Owen - except that her confirmation was part of the Seven Dwarves compromise.


Can you recommend a source for info on Owen and Jones?

flenser said...

Arlen Specter is pleading with O'Connor to stay on, so if he has his way this may all be moot.

What will it take for this guy to get shown the door?

vnjagvet said...

Don't underestimate ole Arlen. A Pennsylvania Republican to the core. He can play the game, although he does not appeal much to the true believers. He can peel off a few democrats from time to time (see the Leahy move today), and he is a survivor.

IMO, Specter is merely signalling the WH, and building opinion in other quarters that the coast is clear for a respected female judge along the lines I discussed in the post.

Again, watch the "people" side of this story, not the "legal" side for hints as to where it will play out.

flenser said...

Since I'm convinced the Democrats will filibuster any likely nominee, I'd like it to be a woman or minority. That way they get a black eye in the PR battle, and if the filibuster succeeds we can come back with Luttig.

But I think Bush will go with Luttig first.