Court nominees should not be grilled on specifics

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2005

The real brass ring from the 2004 presidential election is about to be reached - the selection of at least one, perhaps two, Supreme Court justices.

During the race, rarely did we ever hear President Bush or challenger Sen. John Kerry ever talk much about the selection, but the writing was on the wall. Since justices are appointed for life, selecting one is a rare honor for a president. And, more important, it is one of the most lasting decisions a president can make.

In 200 years of existence, only 148 people have been nominated for the auspicious position. Of those, more than two dozen either were rejected outright, rejected by Senate inaction, withdrawn by the president or declined by the nominee.

Email newsletter signup

America is a nation of laws and the Supreme Court is the highest authority in the land, which can interpret the law.

With an aged court, we should not be surprised at either the recent retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor or the almost constant talk that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist will soon follow her.

President Bush has been meeting with his advisors and talking with key Democrats in the Senate to banter around names of potential nominees.

Once a person is nominated, he or she must be approved by a majority of the Senate. That seems rather simple, but given the rather bitter nomination battles, we expect the confirmation process could become rife with political wranglings in the Senate.

An issue almost certain to rear its head is whether or not the nominee should have to answer direct questions about how he or she feels on a particular issue. While this seems simple, it is not. Grilling a nominee on exactly how he or she feels personally about a hot-button issue serves no purpose.

Despite what some folks may believe, the court isn't about personal beliefs but rather the interpretation of law and the application of those laws to specific cases. Each case, like each of our situations and lives, are different. Attempting to use an answer to a general question to predict how a justice will vote on controversial issues - abortion, stem cell research or gay marriage - is ludicrous and has no place in the process.

Yes, the brass ring of the future is floating right in front of us. The question is: Will we grip it firmly with logic and common sense or use it to try and strike our neighbor because we disagree?