Keeping up appearances

Notes from the political sidelines.
Aug. 12 2005 1:06 PM

Keeping Up Appearances

Justice isn't all that's blind.

80_thehasbeen

Friday, Aug. 12, 2005

Say No More: The trouble with most Presidential candidates is that they'll say anything just to get elected. The trouble with Supreme Court nominees is that they'll say nothing just to get confirmed.

Advertisement

The Post reports that in 1981, John Roberts sent a memo to Sandra Day O'Connor advising her to plead the 5th if asked about her views on legal questions. Roberts warned that answering questions would raise the "appearance of impropriety" and prejudice her views in future cases before the Court.

Roberts has an excuse: It was his first job. But if it's improper for future Court justices to discuss specific legal questions and precedents, why do we need law schools?

In a few weeks, thousands of first-years will raise their hands for the first time in Civil Procedure class and begin compromising their futures as blank-slate Supreme Court justices. Pity the 1-L who shows up unprepared for class and tries to convince the professor that answering any questions would raise an "appearance of impropriety."

With profound understatement, the Post says: "The memo appears to raise the possibility that Roberts will himself be reluctant to be pinned down on specific cases during confirmation hearings." The lawyer's lawyer declines to comment on advice of counsel.

Channel Surfing: On Tuesday, the New York Times explained why Westchester County district attorney Jeanine Pirro agreed to run for the Senate against Hillary Clinton: "Even in defeat, Ms. Pirro has told friends, her resulting fame could pave the way for another statewide office, or, perhaps, give her a greater role on television, where she has been a legal analyst for Fox News."

Although by no means impartial, The Has-Been considers it a breakthrough when a Senate race is now just a stepping stone to Fox News. In the past, prime seats at Fox and elsewhere were reserved for true has-beens looking for something to do after leaving Congress. Newt Gingrich, John Kasich, Martin Frost, and Susan Molinari are among the former members who have gone on to be part of the Fox family.

Skipping Congress to go straight into punditry has its advantages. Governing can be boring work. Fox pays better and earns higher ratings than C-SPAN, especially in the 18-44 demographic prized by advertisers. Besides, what can freshmen possibly get done, anyway?

Of course, Rick Lazio, the last guy to run against Hillary Clinton, went on to a brief stint as a guest host on Fox. But he did it the hard way, as a washed-up congressman.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.