Hearing of Viteu Marcianüs

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A public hearing was conducted by the Senate in January 2020 to consider Viteu Marcianüs's nomination to be a Justice of the Uppermost Court.

The hearing was not a confirmation hearing per se: although Prime Minister Miestrâ Schivâ pledged that she would only formally Clark the nomination following a positive hearing, there are no statutory requirements for any kind of scrutiny. Indeed, the process of scrutiny of an Uppermost Court nominee through a formal hearing is entirely unprecedented in Talossa.

Nomination

On December 18 2019, Prime Minister Miestrâ Schivâ announced to the Ziu she intended to nominate to the Uppermost Court Viteu Marcianüs, as part of the coalition deal between Schivâ's Free Democrats, AMP and PNP.

Marcianüs is a former leader of the Free Democrats and a multiple term Cabinet minister, having most recently served as Attorney General to Schivâ herself and to Lüc da Schir, and as Distain to Ian Plätschisch; before his hiatus from Talossa, Marcianüs also served as Minister of Culture and Minister of STUFF.

Most notably, Marcianüs is a practicing attorney in New York. The Court currently has only one of four justices who has underwent legal training, Puisne Justice Litz Cjantscheir, while most recently former Senior Justice Cresti Siervicül, an attorney in the Washington, DC area, has also sat on the court.

Context

The fifth seat of the Uppermost Court had been vacant since October 2018, following the Ziu's successful vote to impeach Justice Béneditsch Ardpresteir, who resigned concurrently with the vote's result being announced. Intervening governments publicly advocated for the court's size being reduced to three seats, as in the 1987-2015 period, but no bill to that effect was passed.

Furthermore, the nomination came shortly after the Court ruled against the government in Talossa v. Pinátsch - Senior Justice Ian Tamoran denied that Senator Sevastáin Pinátsch had committed wrongdoing while immigrating under a false name, a verdict publicly derided by Schivâ and other members of the government parties.

Reactions

Reactions to the nominations were generally polarised around political lines. Former RUMP leader Alexandreu Davinescu blasted Marcianüs's "temper", noting how he had earlier quit the Cabinet because of his unwillingness or inability to follow the government-set code of conduct, and "held grudges against multiple people". Schivâ pointed out that Marcianüs held the legal system in high regard as a practicing attorney, and that a nomination would put him outside the political system and partisan controversies.

In accepting the nomination, Marcianüs said he was "looking forward to a thorough vetting process"; in response, Lord President of the Senate Lüc da Schir commented that he wanted to "provide him with a full opportunity to sustain his own candidacy in a hearing", while strongly criticising some hints that the government intended to immediately Clark a nomination bill. As such, following private talks between da Schir, Schivâ and Marcianüs, the government agreed to hold a public hearing into the nomination during the month of January, which was announced to the Ziu on December 30.

Rules

Upon officially receiving the nomination, Lord President da Schir issued a letter to the other Senators outlining a framework and a set of rules for the hearing.

Committee

The Senate would assemble into a Committee of the Whole House to consider the nomination. This was an procedural tool which da Schir mainly chose for the following reasons:

  • It allowed to set a specific set of rules for the hearing, restricted to the sole committee proceedings, which enhanced the existing Standing Rules of the Senate, a minimal set of orders which has no provisions on debate and voting;
  • It sidestepped the quorum provision of Standing Rule 5, as da Schir had no indication as to whether the Senate would remain engaged all throughout the hearing;
  • It allowed Senator Merþedes to fully take part in the proceedings and vote on the final report, as she was Organically barred from voting on the Senate floor;
  • It allowed Guest Counsels to speak and be heard in the proceedings, including King John, who is Organically barred from entering the Senate;
  • It allowed the Senate to use the tool of the committee report to issue a nonbinding vote on the nomination, which could then be used by the Government as a go-ahead to Clark the official nomination bill.

Da Schir served as Chairman of the Committee, with Senator Açafat del Val serving as Deputy Chairman.

Interviews

The core of the hearing was a period dubbed "Interviews". Senators would each hold the floor for 48 hours, in order of seniority. While holding the floor, Senators would be permitted to question the nominee, present evidence and yield time to Guest Counsels, who could in turn engage with the nominee. There was no limit to the number of questions each Senator or Guest Counsel could ask, within reason.

During interviews, non-Senators could also contribute written statements to the committee, which were then approved by the Chairman and placed on the record. The rules also allowed for absent Senators to have their questions asked in their place, but no Senator took advantage of this provision.

Before and after the interviews, the nominee was allowed an opening and closing statement. Marcianüs chose to deliver his closing statement by video.

A byproduct of the tight timings of the hearing was Rule 15. On the beginning of a Senator's turn of questioning, the Chair could announce the rule would apply; the Senator would then have to signal their "intention to speak" by asking a question to the nominee within 24 hours of being called to hold the floor. Should the Senator not respond within a day, the Chair would assume the Senator did not wish to speak and give the floor to the next in line. The rule was invoked twice in the last week of the hearing.

Hearing

The rules allowed for "gap days" in the hearing. By agreement with the nominee, the committee adjourned every weekend from the end of the Friday business day (7 PM TST) to the morning of Sunday (10 AM TST). This effectively broke up the nominations into weeks.

Note: the question count for each Senator and Guest is approximative and does not take into account statements without answer needed, comments on the nominee's answers and in general follow-up questions that sought clarification rather than expand the scope of the question.

Week 1 (Jan 3 to 11)

Week 1 properly started on January 7, with Marcianüs making an opening statement. Questions during Week 1 were made by:

The Committee of the Whole adjourned for the weekend. Last remark was made on 10 January at 9:47 PM TST.

Week 2 (Jan 12 to 18)

Proceedings continued on 12 January at 11:42 AM TST. Questions during Week 2 were made by:

The Committee of the Whole adjourned for the weekend. Last remark was made on 17 January at 6:31 PM TST.

Week 3 and 4 (Jan 19 to 30)

Proceedings continued on 19 January at 10:09 AM TST. Questions during Week 3 and 4 were made by:

Senators Ardpresteir and Merþedes did not ask questions.

The Committee of the Whole adjourned for the weekend (Last remark was made on 24 January at 6:31 PM TST) and resumed on January 26 at 10:02 AM TST.

During Week 4, an external contribution by Magniloqueu da Lhiun was put on the record. On the Chair announcing the lone Rule 15 Senator (Merþedes) had not contacted him to speak, Marcianüs was given the floor to make a closing statement. The Committee then proceeded on to adjournment.

Adjournment and report

On the closing statement being received, the Committee voted to on a motion to adjourn and report back to the Senate. This motion was essentially needed for the hearing to finish and, incidentally, for the Senate to publicly express its opinion of the nomination.

The motion to adjourn was moved by Senators del Val and Marcianüs himself, and contained a report in non-neutral terms endorsing Marcianüs for the position of Justice. The motion passed with 4 votes in favour, 1 against, 2 abstentions and 1 not voting. On passage, the Committee immediately adjourned sine die and reported back to the Senate, which accepted the report by unanimous consent, officially ending the hearing.

Outcome

Soon after the Senate accepting the report, Prime Minister Schivâ Clarked a single-line nomination bill dubbed "The Vth Member of the Uppermost Cort Bill", a nod to Marcianüs's nickname ("V") and the fact he would be the fifth (V, in Roman numerals) Justice on the bench. The bill looks set to have little to no opposition in the Cosa, where the Government controls 155 of 185 filled seats, and is also predicted to pass the Senate, which it controls by 5 seats to 8. The bill needs 2/3rds of the Cosa and a majority of the Senate to pass.