Commentary: Fiorina's judical nomination views are unclear

Based on Carly Fiorina's talking points, you'd think that U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer burst the housing bubble, crashed the stock market and inflated the federal budget deficit to obscene dimensions all on her own.

At every campaign stop, Fiorina declares that the main issue in her race to unseat the incumbent Democrat is jobs, jobs and, oh yeah, jobs.

No doubt, California's economic woes will motivate many voters this fall. But the Republican challenger would be unable to do much to restore jobs if she wins on Nov. 2. She'd be a rookie in Washington, one of 100 senators in a body where seniority counts for everything.

There is, however, one area where Fiorina would have clout: Judicial appointments. On this issue, she and Boxer appear dramatically different.

Unlike Boxer, Fiorina opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and declares her support for Second Amendment gun rights. Federal judges have dealt with or are dealing with each issue.

Fiorina promises to have no litmus test, but also offered a rather vague standard at a campaign stop in Sacramento: "The Senate's advice and consent role is a very serious one and that is why it is incumbent on each senator to really examine the record of each individual, not make snap judgments, but make their decisions based upon what the results of that examination provide."

James Rogan, a Superior Court judge in Orange County, knows firsthand about the power that a single senator can wield over a judicial nominee.

Individual pieces of legislation are rarely remembered. But a single high court decision can have an impact across generations. Other than votes on matters of war and peace, senators take no more long-lasting actions than voting for or against a Supreme Court justice.

"It is one of the biggest parts of being a senator, and it is a part that Senate candidates talk about the least because most voters don't understand it," Rogan said. "Legislation can change from year to year, but lifetime appointments are just that."

Rogan was a Republican congressman from Burbank in 1998, when he helped manage President Bill Clinton's impeachment in the House, a move that incurred the everlasting enmity of Democratic partisans, Boxer among them.

To read the complete column, visit www.sacbee.com.