In Rob Reiner's brilliant rock and roll parody "This is Spinal Tap," character Nigel Tufnel utters the classic phrase, "There's such a thin line between clever and stupid." In an astonishing case of life imitating art, the Julio A. Brady confirmation hearing held by Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Ronald Russell proved this true.
To begin with, the Rules Committee's function in regard to nominees is to gather information relative to the proposed appointee's ability to serve and present that information in an unbiased fashion. There was nothing evenhanded about this confirmation hearing. It was, in fact, a disgrace and a disservice to both the nominee, to the institution of the Legislature and to the people of the Virgin Islands.
The chairman of the Rules Committee delayed the hearing in order to not only call upon the governor to withdraw the nomination, but to also cleverly provide a list of persons whom he wished to see appointed in place of the nominee.
If the person in charge of the hearing seeks to manipulate the process before it begins, can the process be fair and unbiased?
It can not. It was not. Strike one.
A former U.S. Attorney's videotaped testimony provided more intrigue-until it was announced by none other than the Senate president and the chief justice that this individual was disbarred – twice.
I have real difficulty believing that the same chairman who so cleverly located a "confidential" document with which to disparage the nominee didn't do any research on this twice disbarred attorney.
Can this person's testimony be viewed as an honest attempt to provide unbiased testimony to aid in the confirmation process?
It can not. It was not. Strike two.
A document from Customs, Treasury or Starfleet Command (it was so secretive that we are unsure which) was introduced into the confirmation discussion, but labeled "confidential." As such, no-one was allowed to read it, lest their unworthy eyes be burned from their skull. Since the document wasn't made public, it belongs in the same realm as a high school girl carrying "he-say, she-say" between two groups.
Just an FYI here, once a document is introduced on the floor of the Legislature, it belongs forever in the purview of public domain.
Despite whatever was said regarding some secret agreement between Customs, Treasury, Mr. Spock and the Senate, that document now belongs to the world.
I say, let's get Scotty to beam us down so we can take a look!
After all, what about that nifty catch phrase, "transparency in government"?
Mind you, the document was evidently an internal file and not a thesis on the character of Julio A. Brady. There wasn't any reason for this "confidential" document to be the centerpiece of the Brady confirmation hearing unless it was part of a separate agenda.
Are we really to believe that its introduction was to provide an unbiased confirmation hearing?
The public should not be asked to believe in a document to which they have no access. Strike three.
Given the irregularities, the attempted manipulation of the process and the blatant bias on the part of the chairman, I can not understand how this witch hunt was allowed to proceed for seven hours.
At some point, someone should have administered a Vulcan nerve pinch and ended the fiasco.
This debacle played on for so long that the senators were distracted from the one point that they should have concentrated on – Brady's ability and necessity to recuse himself from all cases involving Innovative Communications once he is placed upon the bench.
I do not have a problem with Brady's current position as in-house attorney for Innovative Communications. Hey, a guy's got to make a living.
However, just as a justice would be hard-pressed to avoid charges of bias if he presided over a trial involving an ex-wife, so should Brady permanently recuse himself from all cases involving his current employer. The bias pendulum does indeed swing both ways.
Finally, I am intrigued when I compare this confirmation with that of Judge Leon Kendall. The judicial poll by the V.I. Bar Association showed that Judge Kendall's nomination was soundly opposed by that body.
Evidently the poll was ignored because Judge Kendall was confirmed faster than Mr. Sulu's warp drive – despite admitting to have scant trial experience as an attorney.
It does make one wonder exactly where the yardstick lies as far as what constitutes a fair and unbiased process.
On the other hand, the public is being asked to base its opinion on
Brady's ability to sit on the bench not on his professional qualifications or experience, but upon a phantom document which, according to a biased and manipulative chairman, may prove to somehow be some way damaging in some unnamed manner to parties who are yet unknown.
Given all that's transpired and the chasm of proven judicial experience between the two nominees, when I compare the nay votes in the Julio A. Brady confirmation hearing with the ayes given to confirm our last justice, I am left with just one question:
Are you out of your Vulcan minds?
Editors note: Emmett Hansen II was a member of the 24th and 25th V.I. Legislatures and holds degrees from Dillard University and the Defense Information School, and has taken graduate courses in public administration at the University of the Virgin Islands. He is presently at work on a book about his experiences while in the Legislature.
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