On Tuesday September 4th, Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to be publically interviewed regarding his stance on particular political issues. The hearings have been going on for several days now.
Kavanaugh’s nomination has been a hot-button issue for a multitude of reasons. Justice Kennedy, who has just resigned from his seat on the Supreme Court and whose place Kavanaugh will be taking, was considered a swing vote (having voted for policies considered both left and right-leaning). Being that Kavanaugh is a conservative, the Supreme Court would be 5-4 conservative he if were to be confirmed.
The hearings largely consist of lawmakers asking the nominee questions that a judge cannot actually answer without violating the concept of judicial independence, the idea that courts should be immune to improper influence from the other two branches of government or from private or partisan interests. Being as the nominee cannot actually answer most of these politically charged questions, what then is the point of this Judiciary Committee hearing?
A textbook may tell you that the purpose of a Judiciary Committee hearing is both to determine the competency of the Supreme Court nominee and to give the citizens of the country the opportunity to learn more about his or her positions regarding specific political issues. However, this hearing and others like it have not proven to be a productive use of time or resources. The events that have taken place since the start of Kavanaugh’s hearing have clearly demonstrated the frivolity of the hearing itself.
Citizens who have viewed clips of the chaos erupting at the onset of the hearing on the first day are aware of the plethora of interruptions from protestors through organized verses of shouting. Fox News reported that on Wednesday, the U.S. Capitol Police had “arrested and charged three people with ‘unlawful demonstration activities’ during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing,” bringing the “total number to 73 since the beginning of his hearings.” The same report also stated that “sixty-six people were charged with disorderly conduct,” and six were charged with “crowding, obstructing or incommoding.” An additional person was charged with resisting arrest. But what truly makes the hearings farcical are the actions of some of the Senators themselves. Senators including Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Richard Blumenthal started off the hearing by interrupting the Chairman several times, requesting that the hearing be adjourned.
Before the hearing, President Trump had invoked executive privilege, blocking access to “100,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s time as a close aide to President George W. Bush” according to ABC News. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) was quoted saying that this was “not normal because we (the Judiciary Committee) are not able to see 100,000 documents.” This is despite the fact that more than four times that amount had been made available to the Committee. Moreover, the Senators who seem to have the biggest problem with this, Kamala Harris and Chuck Schumer, have both already come out preemptively saying that they would vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. If their minds are already made up, what would be the point in digging up an extra 100,000 documents?
Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings have also been described by radio host and columnist Ben Shapiro as “just a place for prospective presidential candidates to grandstand.” This could be seen on several occasions, the most prominent being Cory Booker’s “I am Spartacus” stunt on Thursday. Booker claimed, while practically begging to be ousted from the Committee, that he knowingly violated Senate rules that were put forth in order to release confidential documents regarding Kavanaugh’s stance on racial profiling. There are two things wrong here. One is that the documents that were released turned out to contain nothing particularly damaging to Kavanaugh. The other is that the documents he claimed to have “knowingly violated the rules” to release had already been approved for release the night before. William Burck, the former Bush administration lawyer overseeing the production of Kavanaugh’s documents, declared that he “was surprised to learn about Senator Booker’s histrionics this morning because [they] had already told him he could use the documents publicly.”
The concept of “judicial independence” is such that a judge on trial cannot imply his or her political stances on given issues or tell the committee how he or she would vote on a given case. In one instance when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) asked Kavanaugh about his views regarding Roe vs. Wade, he stated that, “It’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis.” It was a flawless, nonpartisan response. The problem that arises with news coverage of responses like this is that if judicial independence is not considered, Kavanaugh sounds as if he is dodging the question and simply circumlocuting. Given the majority of the population lacks expertise in the field of law or of judicial independence, Kavanaugh comes off as avoiding the question, when he is only endeavoring to do his job properly.
Watching Senators toss politically charged questions at the Supreme Court nominee, knowing full well that a judge cannot answer honestly without violating judicial independence, has proven to be a waste of time and resources. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and others like it have proven to reveal more about the views and qualifications, or lack thereof, of the Senators than they do about the nominee.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.