The September 29, 2011 issue of the New York Review of Books included this interview with Judge Richard Posner. Eric Segall (Georgia State) conducted the interview, which ran under the headline, "The Court: A Talk with Richard Posner." Here is an excerpt:
EJS: Hasn’t the nomination process become a total farce? At her confirmation hearing, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said repeatedly that she would decide hard cases based on the law, and John Roberts made the infamous analogy to the judge as an umpire.
RP: I have made fun of Roberts about the umpire thing but I don’t blame either of them because the confirmation hearings are not for real. At my confirmation hearing back in 1981, when confirmations were much less controversial (and of course court of appeals nominees don’t get the same scrutiny as Supreme Court justices, though they are getting much more than they did when I was confirmed), Strom Thurmond, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asked me, “Do you agree that judges should just apply the law; they shouldn’t make the law?” I said that was usually the case but some cases are indeterminate and to decide them the judge may have to create some law. Sometime later I received the printed report of the confirmation hearing, and my answer—my nuanced answer—had been changed (without notice to me) to yes, judges should just apply the law and not make the law.
EJS: You told the truth. Why can’t they now?
As I said, judicial appointments were less controversial in those days. * * *
EJS: I think you wrote to me that the nominees should have to answer questions about specific issues and that we should do away with the hearings altogether.
RP: The senators do a very poor job at judicial confirmation hearings. It is amazing to me that no senator took Roberts up on his umpire remark. Fifteen of them were sitting there and they let the remark pass unchallenged. I think the problem is that they are given questions to ask by their staff. They read the questions to the nominee but since they don’t really know what is going on they can’t ask a follow-up question.
EJS: How could Justice Thomas get confirmed after he said under oath that he had never discussed Roe v. Wade with anyone is his life?
RP: The problem is that if the nominee says, “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have a preliminary judgment,” he is accusing his predecessors of having lied, right? It is very tricky. The problem is that we have a political system in which the definition of a gaffe is telling the truth.
Judge Posner has a knack for telling the truth, even when it is not very attractive. It's a great interview.
Read the full piece here.