McConnell: A Full and Fair Debate

‘Republicans are hopeful that President Obama will choose someone with the same qualities that have always characterized a good judge: superb legal ability, personal integrity, sound temperament, and, above all, an even-handed reading of the law’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding Justice Souter’s decision to retire and the nomination process for his replacement:

“Justice Souter’s decision last week to retire from the Supreme Court presents us with an opportunity to prepare for an important debate about the role of the courts and the meaning of the Constitution. Of all the Senate’s duties, few have come to enliven our civic life as much as the consideration of a Supreme Court nominee.

“Justice Souter never made a secret of the fact that he prefers New Hampshire to Washington, and the fact that he’s served so long in spite of that preference speaks of a deep commitment to public service. As Justice Souter returns to New Hampshire, we thank him for his many years of dedicated service.

“Now attention turns to the President’s eventual nominee.

“Republicans are hopeful that President Obama will choose someone with the same qualities that have always characterized a good judge: superb legal ability, personal integrity, sound temperament, and, above all, an even-handed reading of the law.

“These are the qualities Americans have always looked for in their judges. Any judge who has them can fulfill his or her judicial oath of ‘administering justice without respect to persons and to do right by the poor and to the rich.’ And these are the qualities that we should expect of any nominee to the highest court in the land.

“Over the years, there has been a growing tendency among some on the Left to pick or promote judges based on policy and political preferences, and President Obama’s past statements on judicial appointments strongly suggest that he shares this view.

“As a candidate for President, he said that his criteria for a judicial nominee would be someone who would empathize with particular parties or particular groups. This viewpoint was evident again last week when, in describing a good nominee, the President seemed to stress his or her ability to connect with a particular person or group over and above a judge’s traditional role of applying the law without prejudice.

“The problem with this philosophy is that it arises out of the misguided notion that the courts are simply an extension of the legislative branch rather than a check on it. Americans don’t want judges to view any group or individual who walks into the courtroom as being more equal than any other group or individual. They expect someone who will apply the law equally to everyone, so everyone has a fair shake.

“Americans expect, and should receive, equal treatment whether they’re in small claims court or the Supreme Court. And any judge who pushes for an outcome based on their own personal opinion of what’s fair undermines that basic trust Americans have always had and should always expect in an American court of law.

“The President is free to nominate whomever he likes. But picking judges based on his or her perceived sympathy for certain groups or individuals undermines the faith Americans have in our judicial system. So throughout this nomination process, the impartiality of judges is a principle that all of us should strongly defend.

“In a nation of laws, the question is not whether a judge will be on the side of one group or another. It is not ‘whose side,’ the judge is ‘on,’ as a senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee framed the issue during another debate over a Supreme Court nominee. The issue is whether he or she will apply the law even-handedly.

“Once the President chooses his nominee, Senate Republicans will work to ensure the Senate can conduct a thorough review of their record, and a full and fair debate over his or her qualifications for the job. This is a responsibility we take seriously, and one that the American people expect us to carry out with the utmost deliberation.”