The Gotcha Game

The U.S. Senate has now completed the staging of its mock trial of U. S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Detanji Brown Jackson.  I paid as little attention as possible to this farce, but I must confess that as a lawyer who was taught to have respect for the law, for judges, for the judicial system, and for my fellow lawyers, these proceedings were shameful and shameless in the extreme.

I am not saying that this hearing was any better, worse or different than prior confirmation hearings.  In fact, I’m saying they are all the same and they are all equally awful.  Every Senator knows before the confirmation hearings how they will vote.  The questions are not questions.  The only real question is whether the nominee can tolerate the abuse.  Enough is enough.

There must be and there is a better way than granting free television time to arrogant Senators so that they can make coded speeches to their partisan followers and demonstrate their fealty to a set of ideas or doctrines or, in the case of Republicans, Donald Trump.

The most appalling aspect of every judicial confirmation hearing is that many of the Senators are lawyers, some of whom graduated from the most prestigious law schools.  They know beyond a shadow of doubt that their gotcha questions (speeches) have nothing whatsoever to do with whether a nominee is objectively qualified to be a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is a real pity that there is not sufficient leadership (character) in the Senate to overcome this wanton gamesmanship.  The blatant disrespect of the Constitution, the nominee, the law and the rules of the Senate must be ended.

Once this confirmation process is over, the Senate should agree upon objective criteria for confirmation of any nominee regardless of party and further agree that no questioning will be allowed outside the parameters of that criteria. No more speeches.  No more posturing.  No more gotcha questions.  No more asking whether a nominee who serves on the volunteer board of a private school for children has read or approves of the books in the library of that school (as was asked by Ted Cruz).   It would also be a good idea not to televise the hearings.  That would put a stop to most of the grandstanding.  Enough is enough.


For more on this subject, read the editorial piece of Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post of 3/27/2022.