I didn’t tune into John Roberts’ confirmation hearing yesterday because, frankly, I didn’t expect to hear much that was newsworthy. I expected to hear a lot of senators drawing attention to themselves through their opening statements. At the end of the day, however, Judge Roberts did have a chance to make an opening statement and gave us a glimpse into his judicial philosophy (hat tip: Carol Platt Liebau):
Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them.
The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules.
But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.
Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath.
And judges have to have the modesty to be open in the decisional process to the considered views of their colleagues on the bench.
Although he will likely be peppered with questions today about specific cases and issues, I expect Judge Roberts to politely decline to answer many of those questions as it would not be appropriate for him to address any issue that could potentially come before the Court. That’s the way it should be.