Potential Closed-Door Hearing on Judicial Nominees Today “Would be Undemocratic and Unacceptable,” Says PFAW’s Neas

There are indications that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider this afternoon several judicial nominees, including a controversial nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Charles Pickering, at a hearing that could be in effect closed to the public due to security measures on Capitol Hill. People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas today urged Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy not to hold closed-door hearings on any judicial nominees.

“De facto closed-door hearings on federal judicial nominees are undemocratic and unacceptable,” said Neas. “People For the American Way urges Senator Leahy not to establish a precedent that undermines the principles of open and accountable government and shuts the public out of this critically important process.”

Reportedly the hearing might be inaccessible to the public due to security precautions that have shut Senate office buildings temporarily and put restrictions on public access to the Capitol. Neas said the hearing on nominations to lifetime positions on the federal bench should be postponed if the public cannot be guaranteed access to the hearing. “Considering these judicial nominees is not a matter of national security, or of such great urgency that we must violate fundamental principles of democratic government,” said Neas. “In particular, there are many reasons to postpone the hastily scheduled hearing on Judge Pickering so that the public can make sure that senators have time to thoroughly consider the nominee’s record.” Neas said that if the hearing goes forward, the Judiciary Committee must hold a second hearing, accessible to the public, after the transcript of the first hearing is made available.

“It is particularly important in this time of crisis that we affirm, rather than abandon, the principles of democratic self-governance,” said Neas.

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