Christopher Eisgruber’s The Next Justice

book-eisgruber-next-justice.gifIn the mail: Professor Christopher Eisgruber’s (Princeton University) new book, The Next Justice: Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process (Princeton University Press 2007). From the cover jacket:

The Supreme Court appointments process is broken, and the timing couldn’t be worse–for liberals or conservatives. The Court is just one more solid conservative justice away from an ideological sea change–a hard-right turn on an array of issues that affect every American, from abortion to environmental protection. But neither those who look at this prospect with pleasure nor those who view it with horror will be able to make informed judgments about the next nominee to the Court–unless the appointments process is fixed now. In The Next Justice, Christopher Eisgruber boldly proposes a way to do just that. He describes a new and better manner of deliberating about who should serve on the Court–an approach that puts the burden on nominees to show that their judicial philosophies and politics are acceptable to senators and citizens alike. And he makes a new case for the virtue of judicial moderates.

Long on partisan rancor and short on serious discussion, today’s appointments process reveals little about what kind of judge a nominee might make. Eisgruber argues that the solution is to investigate how nominees would answer a basic question about the Court’s role: When and why is it beneficial for judges to trump the decisions of elected officials? Through an examination of the politics and history of the Court, Eisgruber demonstrates that pursuing this question would reveal far more about nominees than do other tactics, such as investigating their views of specific precedents or the framers’ intentions.

Written with great clarity and energy, The Next Justice provides a welcome exit from the uninformative political theater of the current appointments process.

Sounds interesting.

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2 Responses

  1. I look forward to reading this but, having sustained interest in the topic, am going in with low expectations. I don’t think the process is “broken” at all, certainly not any more than it was when the first nomination failed (in the Washington administration). Senators have been asking nominees about their “philosophies” for decades. How is that in any sense a “new” approach? What is more, political scientists have long recognized those “philosophies” are just about useless when it comes to predicting decisions.

    The philosophies and politics of nominees should be acceptable to citizens? What? What view do citizens take of the scope of the commerce power these days? You mean the citizens who have said they favor prayer in public schools in every poll taken since 1963? I guess affirmative action and the exclusionary rule would soon be out of the window. Sounds like an idea that is both unworkable and undesireable.

    And, of course, running to ideology (“moderates”) isn’t going to cure much. It is more likely to be viewed for what it probably is: a last ditch defense against a possible change in tide. Similarly, the people who worry/complain about “litmus tests” are usually the people who do not have power.

  2. Or:

    “The Court is just one more solid liberal justice away from an ideological sea change–a hard-left turn on an array of issues that affect every American, from the right to attend your local public school to free speech rights during campaign season.”

    But I’m sure Mr. Eisgruber’s political leanings aren’t at all apparent…