Bench Memos

Senator Sessions Sets the Standard

In today’s Washington Post, Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, explains how Senate Republicans will approach President Obama’s pending Supreme Court nomination.

The Republicans’ role in the Senate’s exercise of its constitutional power to advise and consent will be to see that fair and rigorous hearings determine whether the president has selected a nominee who respects the Constitution or one who intends to rewrite it. The consequences of this question cannot be overstated. Only five justices are needed to declare the meaning of the Constitution, thereby potentially dictating huge changes to our nation’s economy, culture and law. With such high stakes, the American people rightly expect greatness in our highest jurists — the greatness personified by John Marshall and Felix Frankfurter and anticipated from John Roberts.

The Senate has a duty to determine whether the president’s nominee meets these expectations. Senate hearings represent the public’s best opportunity to participate in the process and learn about a nominee’s qualifications. Accordingly, senators must ask tough, substantive questions to determine if the individual possesses four characteristics that great justices share.

The four characteristics Senator Sessions identifies are impartiality, commitment to the rule of law, integrity, and legal expertise and judicial temperament.

If his recent performance is any guide, Senator Sessions takes this obligation to question nominees quite seriously.  As BLT reported, he pressed Second Circuit nominee Gerald Lynch quite extensively at his recent confirmation hearing.

Jonathan H. Adler — Mr. Adler is an NRO contributing editor and the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His latest book is Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane.

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