The disparity between the rules of courts and the rules of Congress gives rise to this question: is the rigor-or lack of it-with which Congress evaluates the reliability of evidence an appropriate factor for courts to consider in deciding whether to defer to a congressional finding? In this Article, I consider whether Congress should adopt rules to fill the void. In Part I, I give a brief summary of the development and use of Congressional Committees. In Part II, I analyze several modern-day congressional hearings in an effort to examine the degree to which Congress and its committees require that the evidence on which they base their findings be reliable. I focus primarily, though not exclusively, on the modern-day impeachment trials and other high-profile proceedings such as the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. The usefulness of these more famous-sometimes infamous-proceedings arises from the fact that they place legislators and their evidentiary rulings in the limelight of public attention, thus heightening the visibility of Congress's decisions to value trustworthiness or to sacrifice it to partisanship. I suggest that political considerations have infected fact-finding to an increasing extent, to the point that almost all fact-finding in modern hearings is deliberately shaped so as to accomplish a political goal. In Part III, I employ the United States Supreme Court's decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, along with the legislative findings which were significant to that decision, as a lens through which to view the relationship between the reliability of Congress's evidence and the propriety of judicial deference to the findings based on that evidence. In Part IV, I narrow the focus to examine the Court's rationale for the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, and I suggest that the rationale offered in the decision does not fully explain the ruling and that the subtext must be taken into account in order for the decision to be understood. In Part V, I recommend that Congress either employ neutral fact-finding bodies or adopt rules of evidence to promote reliability in its hearings, and I suggest that deference to legislative findings should depend on the presence of such limits to check unbridled discretion in fact-finding.
Elizabeth De Coux,
Does Congress Find Facts or Construct Them - The Ascendance of Politics over Reliability, Perfected in Gonzales v. Carhart,
56 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol56/iss2/5