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Sotomayor hearings: The grilling of Supreme Court nominees is a relatively new invention

Fordbork

These days, it’s expected — the theater of a Supreme Court nominee appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. One would think it’s a tradition that goes back to the early days of the republic. As it turns out, that’s not the case.

As we learned from reading the Judiciary Committee’s compulsively readable website, court nominees only began appearing before the committee in the last century. Harlan Stone became the first Supreme Court nominee to appear and testify before the Judiciary Committee in 1925.

Every nominee to the high court since President Eisenhower’s 1955 nomination of John Harlan has testified before the committee. And, yes, he used the name Harlan too, but as a surname.

History buffs might want to follow this link to the engrossing history section of the committee’s website, but we must offer a warning: You might forget to stay tuned to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s third day before the committee. But that’s another reason to check out the Ticket as senators continue questioning President Obama’s first nominee to the high court. We promise to bring you up to date.

The proceedings will begin shortly.

-- Steve Padilla

Photo: Former President Gerald Ford, left, introduces Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, center, before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 1987. Credit: Charles Tasnadi / Associated Press

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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