Thursday, September 15, 2005

Chief Justice Data

From the New York Times:

Judge John G. Roberts Jr. faced increasingly contentious questions from Democrats on Wednesday as he outlined his views on an array of legal issues, but repeatedly declined to address some of the most ideologically charged matters, including whether the Constitution establishes a right to abortion and a right to die.

“I’m not standing for election,” Judge Roberts said in one testy exchange on end-of-life issues on the third day of his confirmation hearings for chief justice of the United States.

His refusal to elaborate on his statement that there is a constitutionally protected right to privacy drew criticism from Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, one of several Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who challenged him with growing frustration on Wednesday.

“Without any knowledge of your understanding of the law, because you will not share it with us,” Mr. Biden said, “we are rolling the dice with you, Judge.”

But Judge Roberts, by the end of a second long day of careful, unflappable testimony, appeared in comfortable position for a confirmation vote next Thursday in the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee and, many Republicans predicted, a strong vote the following week in the full Senate, where Republicans have a 10-vote majority.


Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said that Judge Roberts’s refusal to answer many questions had rendered the hearings absurd. Mr. Schumer suggested that Judge Roberts would not even name his favorite movies.

Judge Roberts named two: “Doctor Zhivago” and “North by Northwest.”

The guy really does sound like Lt. Commander Data, the android from Star Trek. When a senator greeted him and said, “Hey, how are you?” the judge replied, “All systems are functioning within normal paramaters.”

I don’t have a problem with Judge Roberts clamming up; after all, that’s what his handlers told him to do. It will be fun, however, to replay these hearings for the Republicans who will go ballistic when the next Democratic president sends up a Supreme Court nominee and he or she refuses to answer the same questions.