Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rachael Larimore and Dahlia Lithwick ask, "What if you wanted to ask a question that actually elicits information?
"That's something the senators on the judiciary committee might want to ask themselves going into this week's confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito. Because cross-examination is a skill at which they demonstrated almost zero ability during John Roberts' confirmation hearings last fall."

Last fall? How about, since the Watergate hearings? I realize that asking good questions is a specific skill set-- it is a skill I try to teach. But just because something isn't instinctive or intuitive doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing-- this is a big deal. We are dealing with a President who has said, in so many words, I will do whatever I feel I have to, and the legalities are not important." Alito is going to be one of the judges that will determine whether presidents can do that and get away with it. I'd like to think that the lapdogs and sheep that are the Democratic caucus of the United Sates Senate are up to the job of conducting the level of due dilligence that the task cries out for.

I disagree that, "So long as the nominee can decline to respond, it's not all that useful to be a brilliant questioner." The right questions can focus the public's attention on the issues, and on the ability of the nominee to decide the issues in a manner consistant with the great traditions and precedents that make up American Constitutional Law. The problem is preciesely that, "the senators tend to view their questioning of the nominee as incidental; their real objectives are delivering endless speeches, listing their every senatorial accomplishment, and striving to get themselves quoted on the evening news."

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