Will Bardwell attended Justice Graves’ Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday and wrote this account for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. The hearing opened with softballs from Senator Al Franken. Franken reminded Graves that “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like you.”
Then it was time for the Republican attack. Except the Republicans implemented a French battle plan and questioned Graves about something they couldn’t beat him on: the death penalty. Bardwell reports:
Each time, Graves parried by assuring Sessions that, as a member of a lower court, he would bind himself to the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. As evidence of that deference, Graves told the stridently pro-death penalty senator that he had voted to affirm capital sentences in no fewer than a dozen cases.And with that, any fear about a genuine Republican attack on Graves ended. That’s not to say that Graves should quit his day job—the Republicans are holding up all President Obama’s judicial nominations for the political sport of it.
But fears raised earlier in the week about a real attack on Graves proved unfounded.
After writing this post about Eugene Volokh’s blog raising questions about Justice Graves, I received an email from Mr. Volokh that explained how he knew about the Mississippi Supreme Court decisions that he wrote about. The email explained:
Dear Mr. Thomas: I read with interest your post that mentioned my post about Justice Graves, but wanted to make one small factual point – though I do often learn about stories because readers send me links, in this case (as I recall) I learned about the Wilkerson and Osborne opinions myself, when they were decided. The Wilkerson case was reported in Westlaw Bulletin, and I have a daily WestClip query on that; the Osborne case, I think, likely came up in a daily WestClip query I have for new First Amendment cases. My main scholarly field is First Amendment law, so I track free speech cases closely.
Whoops, forgot to make explicit one thing: I am certain that no-one contacted me about the cases after, or even not long before, the Graves nomination; rather, it was the Graves nomination that reminded me about the cases that I had read earlier.
Volokh’s explanation makes sense, particularly given this sentence that was in the first paragraph of his post:
And while I know only one small corner of Justice Graves’ work, I hope the Committee asks him a question about this corner.
By the way, I apologized to Volokh for misreading the tea leaves and he was very gracious. His blog has a national following that will include me in the future.