An Empirical Analysis of the Confirmation Hearings of the Justices of the Rehnquist Natural Court
Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 24, p. 127, 2007
72 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2008
Despite the high degree of interest generated by Supreme Court confirmation hearings, surprisingly little work has been done comparing the statements made by nominees at their confirmation hearings with their voting behavior once on the Supreme Court. This paper begins to explore this potentially rich area by examining confirmation statements made by nominees regarding three different methods of constitutional interpretation: stare decisis, originalism and the use of legislative history. We also look at nominees' statements about one specific area of law: protection of the rights of criminal defendants. We then compare the nominees' statements to decisions made by the Justices once confirmed. Our results indicate that confirmation hearings statements about a nominee's preferred interpretive methodologies provide very little information about future judicial behavior. Inquiries into specific issue areas - such as the rights of criminal defendants - may be slightly more informative. We emphasize, however, that this study is a preliminary look at this issue. As such, we hope this piece stimulates discussion regarding how to best use the wealth of information provided by confirmation hearings to facilitate a better understanding of the role those hearings do - or could - play in shaping the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.
Keywords: Constitutional Law, Supreme Court, Confirmations, Confirmation hearings
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