Thursday’s Hearing Broke the Way We Confirm Supreme Court Justices

We need to completely rework the confirmation process

September 28, 2018

Brennan Center Fellow Victoria Bassetti, a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, participated in a Q&A for Politico on the Kavanaugh nomination. Below are her responses:

Who do you find more credible, [Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford]?

I found Ford more credible. She was calm and collected. In contrast, Kavanaugh was angry, confrontational, and at times rambling. He was openly partisan, even threatening.

However, my ability to judge their credibility would have been vastly improved if the committee had undertaken a thorough and professional investigation and if it had called other witnesses. The committee did neither Ford nor Kavanaugh nor the American public any favors when it refused to ask for an FBI inquiry.

What does today’s hearing say about how we confirm Supreme Court justices?

Today’s hearing broke the way we confirm Supreme Court justices. It was an imperfect system before. A lot of people were bruised in the process, and we were rarely much the wiser about a prospective justice’s philosophy or thinking. But in its own way, it mostly worked. A year and a half ago, the confirmation hearing for Neil Gorsuch featured some deep questioning around his jurisprudence and some of his specific decisions. It also, of course, had its fair share of evasive answers. Even two weeks ago, the Kavanaugh hearings revealed a lot about his thinking on Chevron deference and how the Supreme Court deals with unenumerated rights.

It was always, of course, a political process. And like so much of today’s politics, it has reached the intractable tribal, shouting phase. How to deescalate? First, completely rework the confirmation process. The current members of the Senate Judiciary Committee — the ones who are screaming at each other today — need to step away for a while. Second, turn the confirmation process over to a new special committee that lays out its procedures well in advance. Finally, take the time to do things right. There is never a need to rush to confirm someone to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily those of the Brennan Center for Justice.

(Image: Melina Mara/Getty)