I think it is clear to all now that the next Blue Ribbon Committee is threatening to impose itself on us that legislative hearings on current and controversial subjects have deteriorated. Though I do not remember when they were exemplary exercises either. So, maybe the idea of legislative hearings supposedly in aid of legislation are a misnomer or should be more properly be termed in aid of legislator/s. Or, at least they think so.
The spectacle of legislators, mostly in the Senate and televised live, are becoming tiresome exercises in incivility, name-calling and rush to judgment. This is basically because the hearings become adversarial and judgmental, not even-handed attempts at the Triuth. In a judicial adversity is allowed in exchanges between prosecution and defense lawyers and these are controlled and subdued by the judge of the case being heard so that the process is clear and fair at arriving at the facts. In the case of our legislators, they seem to come already having made judgments, taken sides and to use the hearings for grandstanding.
But then grandstanding is a two-edged sword. It can reveal ignorance, inanity, prejudice, bullying, and other unpleasant traits which reveal more about the grandstander than he bargained for.
This turn of events or rather character of hearings that our legislators manage should by itself demonstrate that they should not be undertaken. First of all, the issues chosen are quite inappropriate for the legislature to concern itself with. Wrongdoing in governance or in the use of public funds or any other case that adverts to law breaking, should be left to the judicial process and not to legislative investigations.
If there is a breach of the rule of law, then the judicial process through the law implementing agencies should be the ones to investigate and take the necessary steps to prevent or punish. We are talking here of the Executive and the Judicial Departments.
In aid of legislation hearings should concern themselves with technical questions about the law and the reason for its existence, need to amend or to how better to implement it. These exercises should delve on the reason, the philosophy, the need for crafting better laws or new laws that will serve to enhance our society.
Bringing in scofflaws, accused lawbreakers, violators of rules is preempting the courts and the implementation of the law by the agencies concerned.
One reason for the appeal of legislative investigative activity is the delay in law implementation in this country, be it the investigation and arrest of those who break the law as well as their indictment, their trial and the judgment that is called for.
The slow motion and ineffective procedures for trial and judgment are despairing to the aggrieved, tortuous to those who demand that justice be handed down and infuriating to the rest of society. Who wants to see the law mocked, to see justice delayed, to endure criminals going about their activities without sanctions? No one who is a member of a society that claims to be law-abiding. The mockery, the delay, the unfairness that the judicial process tolerates is not abided by the public. So, legislative hearings are a seemingly acceptable substitute where they see those who are accused, judged, insulted, baited and goaded. Because yes, that is what these hearings have deteriorated to. One wrong multiplies into many wrongs. It is not rational or equitable. And they are therefore, a poor substitute for a fair and impartial trial following rules of judicial process and even-handed implementation of the law.
Figuratively speaking, legislative investigative hearings are taking the law into one’s hands, a definite misstep in the search for justice.
Yet legislators insist on taking over the judicial process through their hearings. One could just watch in shock and derision when we see distortion, persecution, the inutile results that cannot stand up in court or be fit to bring to court. They actually can result in obstructing the legal process. When the grandstanding deteriorates to stupid questions and silly arguments that evoke answers in kind, it brings on a low opinion of those involved, the legislators concerned. Grandstanders do not seem to know when to stop, as they breach the boundaries of good taste or fairness.
Await the next farce of an aid to legislation hearing coming soon and tell me what you think and how you feel vis-à-vis the rule of law, our society, our duties, and the grandstanding legislators. I doubt if it will be positive.