With the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch of the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in the offing, we asked Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law Barry Friedman—an expert in constitutional law—for his take on proceedings of this type. As Friedman sees it, nominees generally perform a set of choreographed moves, and the hearings are thus a kind of dance-a-thon. “The Senate (or at least senators from the opposing party),” Friedman explains, “try to get as much information as they can about the nominee’s views; the nominee tries to appear forthcoming while saying as little as possible so as not to jeopardize confirmation.” Friedman's predictions on the steps observers might see are below:

The country loves states’ rights.  Except when it doesn’t like what the states are doing. Gorsuch will use dramatic moves to show his fidelity to the principle, without necessarily adhering to it in any given case.

Stare decisis is the rule that existing precedents must be followed. When Republican nominee David Souter, who was expected to move the Court to the right, frequently invoked stare decisis during his hearings, that signaled he wasn't going to change things quickly.

This is one of the most controversial issues, and so the dance moves here must be particularly nimble. Count on Gorsuch to move quickly and say almost nothing.

All nominees are in favor of cameras in the Supreme Court – until they get on the bench. Will Gorsuch be different?

Posted March 17, 2017