Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Competence, Maybe

On the opening day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday, March 20, 2017, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch at or about 11:45 a.m. stated  "Judge Gorsuch’s legal experience is well-known. … he has the highest level of professional qualifications including integrity, competence."

Guess again, Senator. Politico reports

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article, according to documents provided to POLITICO.

The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.

The findings come as Republicans are on the brink of changing Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch over the vehement objections of Democrats. The documents could raise questions about the rigor of Gorsuch’s scholarship, which Republicans have portrayed during the confirmation process as unimpeachable.

The White House has defended Gorsuch vigorously against the charges, although "six experts on academic integrity contacted independently by POLITICO differed in their assessment of what Gorsuch did, ranging from calling it a clear impropriety to mere sloppiness."

There is quite an irony here, although not this one.

In rationalizing his decision not to consider President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland as Associate Justice of the Surpreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated on March 16  "The Senate will continue to observe the Biden Rule so that the American people have a voice in this momentous decision."

The "Biden rule" is not constitutional mandate, law, or even well-understood principle.  Delaware Senator Biden in 1992 gave a speech on the floor suggesting that consideration of a nominee to the Supreme Court during a presidential election year might promote "conflagration."

There was no opening at the time, the statement was made three months later into the election cycle than was Garland's nomination, and Biden recommened in the same speech that consideration of a nominee be made during the transition period.

But let's play along. McConnell was suggesting that such an  admonition (however misundersood) was coming from a serious, respectable, and credible Democratic Senator. Thus, it should be notable that the same Joseph Biden was impelled to drop out of the 1988 presidential primary campaign after footage appeared revealing that he had lifted details of the speech, and of the life of, British politician Neil Kinnock without attribution.

During the recent presidential transition period, Monica Crowley withdrew as a nominee for a position on Donald Trump's National Security Council after a report that she had plagiarized several portions in her book entitled "What the (Bleep) Just Happened."

There are far better reasons to reject Neil Gorsuch than the probability that he is a plagiarist. There undoubtedly otherwise would be 52 Republican votes (most, enthusiastic) in the U.S. Senate for a candidate who, in the words of one commentary, "generally landed his judicial gavel on the opposite side of rights for workers, women, students or those who do not have the big money to influence elections. In other words, people who look to the courts to provide relief for wrongs committed by people and corporations in more powerful positions."

So Gorsuch still probably will be approved. But Democrats need to point out that if he is to be, it demonstrates that the Republican Senate will approve for any position any hard-right, extremist ideologue, lack of integrity notwithstanding.

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