The Next Justice
Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process
Christopher L. Eisgruber
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.
Christopher L. Eisgruber is provost and Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs at Princeton University. He is the coauthor of Religious Freedom and the Constitution and the author of Constitutional Self-Government. He is a former New York University law professor and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham.