Court Battles

Ginsburg pines for more collegial court confirmations

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg offered a tacit criticism Thursday of the recent confirmation process of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Ginsburg described a “collegial” atmosphere surrounding her Senate confirmation in 1993, before noting the process surrounding Gorusch’s confirmation was not the same.

“Watching the most recent confirmation, I wish there was a way that we could wave a magic wand and get back to the way it was and the way it should be,” she said in a speech at Georgetown University for the Marver H. Bernstein Symposium.

{mosads}Republicans changed the Senate’s rules to prevent the minority from filibustering a Supreme Court nominee when Democrats blocked Gorsuch’s confirmation.

Democrats took that action after Republicans refused to grant a vote or a hearing to Merrick Garland, whom former President Obama nominated last year to the Supreme Court. Republicans argued the nomination should have been left to the winner of last year’s presidential election.

The Supreme Court had just eight justices for a year because of the standoff.

Ginsburg recalled the “collegiality” and “civility” of her own nomination and confirmation process. 

“I was nominated on June 14, 1993, and I was confirmed on August 3,” she said. “There was a truly bipartisan spirit in the Congress. My biggest supporter on the Judiciary Committee was [Sen.] Orrin Hatch [R-Utah]. The vote was 96 to 3, and never mind that I had been on the board of the ACLU and co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project and one of four general counsel.”

Robert Katzmann, the chief judge of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals who moderated the event, asked Ginsburg if the court has changed with Gorsuch.

“Every time we have a new justice, we have a new court,” she said.

She later said she thinks the person who is happiest about the new justice is former junior Justice Elena Kagan.

The court’s most junior member, Ginsburg explained, has the job of opening the door during court conferences, relaying the list of cases granted and denied to the court clerks and serving on the cafeteria committee. 

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