Passing the straight face test

The Washington Post reports that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has warned that he will ask John Roberts tough questions about whether the Supreme Court holds Congress in sufficient esteem. According to the Post, Specter plans to use the confirmation hearings “as a forum for sharply criticizing what Specter describes as the high court’s tendency to denigrate Congress’s thoroughness and wisdom in passing various laws.” Specter’s stated concern is less about the courts’ rulings than about justices’ comments that he believes show a disrespect for Congress and its diligence in making laws, says the Post.
I trust that Roberts will assure Specter that Congress is a wise and diligent body that, when legislating, never cuts corners or creates ambiguity. Whether Roberts will be able to suppress the twinkle in his eye remains to be seen.
JOHN adds: One underappreciated aspect of the courts’ burgeoning role as would-be legislators is that Congress is all too often willing to pass the buck to the judiciary. Many statutes nowadays, at both the federal and state levels, incorporate broad, ambiguous language that effectively transfers to the judiciary important policy decisions that should be made by elected representatives. Curbing what we and many others regard as the excessive power of the judiciary is a two-way street: Congress and the state legislatures need to be willing to make tough policy decisions, rather than merely enact broad, feel-good provisions that allow legislators to tell their constituents that they passed something, while leaving it to the courts (and, often, administrative agencies) to figure out what it was supposed to mean.


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