I've been listening along to the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings while I work. As with the previous ones I've heard, there's a pretty consistent refrain of both nominee and (Republican) questioner:

Can't prejudge! Can't prejudge!

Now, as far as it goes, this is a pretty reasonable restriction; you don't want an adjudicator to say what he thinks of pending litigation. However, the companions (I guess offered by way of explanation) to this refrain are:

Can't precommit to ruling a certain way!


Need specifics!

These rationales seem to me to be b.s. One need only apply the second to refute the first. It is damn near impossible that a real case a nominee (or justice) might hear would correspond in the specifics to a briefly outlined hypothetical question answered in hearings! Further damning this first explanation down the river is the willingness of the questioners to accept a nominees offer of "that was my opinion then" as "undoing" their previously held opinions. If it is possible that the nominee changed their mind on an issue (say, "Should government discrimination against women be permitted?"), then "prejudgement" does not matter, as events and changes in procedure occurring after the "prejudgement" can change the conclusion.

The second issue is a bit more reasonable- at least with regard to existing cases. It doesn't make much sense to avoid answering a fairly general question (say, "In what ways is it possible for the President's Article II powers enable him to overrule or ignore the legislation of the Congress?" (Possibly a poor example, as this may be in litigation soon)). General questions don't really call for specifics.

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