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Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings in the U.S. Senate

Reconsidering the Charade

Dion Farganis and Justin Wedeking

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

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Chapter 1. A Vapid and Hollow Charade?

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pp. 1-8

One can only speculate about Elena Kagan’s first thoughts when she learned in May 2010 that she would be nominated to replace the retiring John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court, and thus soon face a Senate confirmation process. But it seems safe to assume that it did not take long for the words “vapid and hollow charade” to come to mind...

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Chapter 2. The Hearings in Historical Perspective

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pp. 9-30

Was Arlen Specter right?1 Have nominees since Robert Bork’s 1987 failed confirmation bid become increasingly evasive—remaining mum on controversial topics in the hopes that it will help secure them a seat on the Court? Specter is certainly not alone either in his perception of the hearings or in his frustration. As we discussed in chapter 1, there is a growing consensus among scholars, pundits, and political leaders that the hearings have become a “mess” over the past several decades (Carter 1988)...

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Chapter 3. Coding the Hearings

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pp. 31-41

We provided anecdotal evidence in chapter 2 of nominees sidestepping questions since Supreme Court confirmation hearings began more than a half century ago. We now begin the process of performing a more systematic analysis of the hearings to determine, among other things, whether those anecdotes were simply isolated occurrences, or whether they are part of a larger pattern of nominee evasiveness. In this chapter, we discuss our methodology, focusing primarily on the detailed coding scheme that we developed to analyze senators’ questions and nominees’ answers...

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Chapter 4. Are Supreme Court Nominees Forthcoming?

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pp. 42-70

To hear critics tell it, the story of Supreme Court confirmation hearings goes something like this: Back in the good old days, nominees used to come to Congress and answer every question they were asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then in the 1980s things changed. After Robert Bork, nominees became much more cautious and selective in their responses, and the hearings have suffered considerably as a result. The typical nominee today refuses to answer any difficult question that comes their way—often invoking something called the “Ginsburg Rule,” which says that any issue that might conceivably come before the Court, no matter how remote the possibility, is off limits...

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Chapter 5. Polarized and Televised: Changes in Committee Voting since 1981

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pp. 71-94

At first glance, the quotes above all point to one conclusion: Supreme Court nominees who are not sufficiently forthcoming during their confirmation hearings should not expect to get much support from senators on the Judiciary Committee. Forthcomingness, as we have been calling it, appears to be a key factor in determining whether Committee members vote “yes” or “no” on a nominee...

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Chapter 6. The Perception Gap

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pp. 95-124

In chapter 5 we examined whether nominee responsiveness influences Judiciary Committee voting, testing a crucial part of our argument about the relationship between the rhetoric of responsiveness and its alleged and actual consequences. What we found was that modern senators tend to vote based on ideology and partisanship, not nominee candor—quite the opposite of what we expected to find, based on the public statements from the senators themselves, which suggested that their decisions are driven by the degree to which a nominee answers questions...

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Chapter 7. Can the Hearings Be Improved? Do They Need to Be?

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pp. 125-138

As criticism of Supreme Court confirmation hearings has intensified over the past few decades, so have calls for reforming the process. Some have argued that the Judiciary Committee should limit the scope of its questioning to issues of character and competence (Carter 1988; Rotunda 2001). Others have gone the other way, arguing that nominees should be expected to explain their views on legal and constitutional issues in depth (Gerhardt 1992; Kagan 1995; Post and Siegel 2006; Strauss and Sunstein 1992). Although their approaches differ, these calls for change do have at least one of two things in common...

Notes

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pp. 139-146

References

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pp. 147-158

Index

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pp. 159-162


E-ISBN-13: 9780472120277
E-ISBN-10: 0472120271
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472119332
Print-ISBN-10: 0472119338

Illustrations: 32 figures, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States. Supreme Court -- Officials and employees -- Selection and appointment.
  • Judges -- Selection and appointment -- United States.
  • United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary.
  • Legislative hearings -- United States.
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