One of the more interesting places to find deep dives into all sorts of issues from authentic voices you won’t read in quite this way in the regular media is Substack. Substack isn’t a media company or publisher, but rather a platform where literally anyone can start publishing and build an audience—a community, really, which is why the medium is so appealing. Some call it blogging for the 2020s, but it’s more than that, and more than “newsletters,” even though you do email out your writing in addition to posting it on your homepage.
In any case, after I resigned from Georgetown last June, Substack approached me to start writing there, from which was born “Shapiro’s Gavel,” where I write about law, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Most recently, I covered how the University of Denver handled protests and calls for the cancellation of my Federalist Society event there last week.
A few months ago, Ed Whelan asked for my thoughts on whether he should join Substack to tell war stories about judicial confirmations. These would be interesting “deep cuts” on long-ago events, very different from the sort of same-day coverage of rulings and controversies that he provides for National Review’s “Bench Memos.” I told him to go for it, that I’d been having a good experience and that I saw it precisely as a place to publish things I wouldn’t put in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, City Journal, and other places where I typically appear.
There have been ten Supreme Court vacancies and twelve Supreme Court nominees since [Clarence Thomas’s nomination], and I have been immersed in all the confirmation battles: I was a lead Judiciary Committee staffer to Senator Orrin Hatch for the nominations of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993 and Stephen G. Breyer in 1994. And for the other nominations, I have, in my work at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, been a blogger, commentator, sometime adviser, and, in one instance each, a mock senator in a White House moot-court session and a testifying witness at a confirmation hearing.
Like it or not, it’s a safe bet that over the past thirty years no one has studied the records of the Supreme Court nominees and of other leading contenders more comprehensively than I have, and no one has written more extensively about those records. (Here, as an example, is a collection of my writings on Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination in 2020.) The same is true, I think, for lower-court nominees who have been in confirmation battles. In supporting many nominees and opposing lots of others, I’ve been engaged in the broader project of advancing judicial principles that I believe are faithful to the role of the courts under our Constitution.
For all that I have written about confirmation battles over Supreme Court and lower-court vacancies, I have a lot more to tell—stories and reflections that, I hope, will be interesting to readers across the ideological spectrum and that will also provide some important lessons and insights on such matters as: How has the judicial-confirmation process changed over recent decades? What factors—political, legal, technological, sociological, among them—have driven these changes? What role have good and bad strategic decisions, and plain old luck, played in the process? And what does all of this portend for future confirmation battles?
Having written a book on Supreme Court politics and judicial nominations going back to the early Republic, I can attest that Ed Whelan’s knowledge of the last 30 years of confirmation battles is indeed nonpareil. Subsequent posts have covered signing on with Senator Orrin Hatch, the immediate aftermath of Justice Byron White’s retirement, and Bill Clinton’s vacillation in choosing a successor to White.
Welcome to Substack, Ed. Everyone reading this should subscribe to “Confirmation Tales.”
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