The paperwork, said Robert J. (Duke) Short, is already beginning to pile up and will only get worse.
Short, a gregarious, 53-year-old native of south Georgia, is the chief investigator on the Republican staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And like other top staffers on the committee, Short is preparing now for a high-stakes political showdown that next month will supplant the Iran-contra hearings as the main event on Capitol Hill -- the confirmation battle over the Supreme Court nomination of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Robert H. Bork.
The battle will begin formally on Sept. 15, when the Judiciary Committee opens hearings on the nomination. But long before then the committee staff will have gathered mountains of material on Bork's personal and professional background, his writings, speeches and the decisions he has participated in on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Much the same process is followed for other judicial nominations, dozens of which are processed by the committee each year. Bork has been through it once before, when he was confirmed to the appeals court in 1982. The difference, in the case of Supreme Court nominees, is not the process but the intensity of the scrutiny.
At a recent committee meeting, Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), considered a key swing vote in the Bork nomination fight, said he was embarrassed to recall how little attention he paid to Bork's appeals court nomination five years ago. But with Bork nominated to serve on the nation's highest court, DeConcini made clear, this time it will be different.
"It is a court that people take a lot more interest in than others," said Diana Huffman, staff director for the Democratic majority on the committee. "It is the only court that is not bound by precedent. All of the members of the committee take a much closer look."
Huffman, 38, a former journalist, has been the committee's staff director since February. A graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and Georgetown University Law School, she was a reporter and editor of Legal Times and managing editor of the National Journal before becoming staff director of the Judiciary Committee.
Other committee staff aides who will play key roles in preparing for the Bork confirmation hearings include:Mark H. Gitenstein, 41, chief Democratic counsel. A graduate of Duke University and Georgetown University Law School, Gitenstein has worked on Capitol Hill since the mid-1970s and has been chief counsel to the committee's Democrats since 1981. Ronald LeGrand, 37, chief investigator on the Democratic staff. LeGrand, a graduate of Boston University and Boston University Law School, was recently named to this post, where his first task will be to lead the investigation into Bork's personal and financial background. Previously he worked as a special agent in the Drug Enforcement Administration and as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. Dennis W. Shedd, 34, staff director and chief counsel for the committee's Republican members. Shedd, who holds law degrees from the University of South Carolina and Georgetown University Law School, has worked for Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, since 1978. Short, a veteran government investigator, is the only nonlawyer among the committee's top aides. He has been the chief GOP investigator since 1976 and is described by Shedd as the committee's "institutional memory."
While senators scatter across the country during Congress' August recess, the task of preparing for the Bork hearings will continue on Capitol Hill. The raw material for the hearings includes a background report on Bork compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Any questions raised by that report or information from other sources will be explored by the committee's investigators.
The American Bar Association will submit another report to the committee evaluating Bork's professional competence. The nominee will provide additional raw material for the hearings by completing a questionnaire, part of which will be made public before he testifies.
Meanwhile, Bork's whole professional career -- as a lawyer, law school professor, U.S. solicitor general and appeals court judge -- will be reviewed by the Judiciary Committee staff. The research effort will concentrate on Bork's voluminous speeches and writings and the court decisions he has written.
Also, Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) has asked a panel of outside legal experts to review aspects of Bork's work and provide written and oral evaluations to him and other committee Democrats.
The panel is made up of Floyd Abrams, a New York lawyer and leading expert on the First Amendment; Kenneth C. Bass, a Washington lawyer who was a senior attorney in the Justice Department during the Carter administration; Clark M. Clifford, defense secretary under President Lyndon B. Johnson and a pillar of the Washington legal establishment; Walter E. Dellinger III, professor at the Duke University Law School and an expert on the Senate's advice-and-consent role in judicial nominations; Philip B. Kurland, professor at the University of Chicago law school and a leading conservative constitutional scholar, and Susan Prager, dean of the UCLA law school and a past president of the American Association of Law Schools.
Bork is the fourth Supreme Court nominee to be subjected to this process in the last five years. The others were Sandra Day O'Connor and Antonin Scalia, now associate justices, and Justice William H. Rehnquist, who underwent a second confirmation procedure when he was nominated to be chief justice.
Bork is not only the most controversial of President Reagan's Supreme Court nominees, he is the first to be nominated since the Democrats regained control of the Senate last year. As a result, Bork will face a committee chairman, Biden, who is an outspoken opponent of his confirmation, rather than Thurmond, who championed the O'Connor, Scalia and Rehnquist nominations.
"It makes a big difference," Short said of this shift in Senate power. "When you can set the agenda, that's the big advantage of being in the majority."
How much of a difference the shift to the Democrats ultimately will make will grow clearer next month when the hearings open with Bork as the first witness.