LA Times overlooked Ginsburg's centrist record on appellate court while citing critic's claim that she "wasn't anywhere near the mainstream"

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

In an August 18 article, the Los Angeles Times cited the claim by Edward Whelan -- a former aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) -- that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "wasn't anywhere near the mainstream" when she was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Clinton. But the Times failed to note that Ginsburg had actually established a largely moderate judicial record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit prior to her nomination to the Supreme Court, or that Whelan's criticism is apparently at odds with Hatch, who has claimed that he personally recommended Ginsburg to Clinton.

As part of his argument that Democrats should support current Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. despite his conservativism, Whelan claimed that even though Ginsburg was extremely liberal, "Sen. Hatch and other Republicans voted to confirm her because they believed the president was entitled to considerable deference in selecting a Supreme Court justice." Whelan, who is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, responded to recent documents depicting Roberts's conservatism with a "statement of unqualified support" for the nominee, according to an August 16 New York Times report.

But, as Media Matters for America has noted, then-appellate judge Ginsburg was regarded, in the words of New York Times reporter Neil A. Lewis, as "resolutely centrist." In his June 27, 1993, article, Lewis wrote, "During her 13 years on the appeals court, Judge Ginsburg often sided with the more conservative judges appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush," and highlighted details from a 1988 Legal Times study:

According to a computerized study of the appeals court's 1987 voting patterns, published in Legal Times, Judge Ginsburg voted more consistently with her Republican-appointed colleagues than with her fellow Democratic-appointed colleagues. For example, in 1987 cases that produced a division on the court, she voted with Judge Robert H. Bork 85 percent of the time and with Judge Patricia M. Wald 38 percent of the time.

Further, according to his 2002 autobiography Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator (Basic Books, 2002), although Hatch considered Ginsburg to be "liberal," he also viewed her as an "honest and capable jurist" who he personally recommended Clinton nominate. The Times failed to note Hatch's own words, instead only reporting that "[l]iberal advocates dispute the comparison between Ginsburg and Roberts" and citing People for the American Way president Ralph G. Neas's remark that "Orrin Hatch told President Clinton that Ginsburg was acceptable before she was nominated."

From the August 18 Los Angeles Times article, which relayed the claim by conservatives that Ginsburg is a "more apt precedent for the upcoming Senate hearings" on Roberts than the more contentious nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas or the failed Bork nomination:

"Ginsburg wasn't anywhere near the mainstream," said Edward Whelan, who in 1993 was an aide to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and is now president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

She "had a record of extremist constitutional and policy views that placed her on the far left fringe of American society," Whelan said. "Sen. Hatch and other Republicans voted to confirm her because they believed the president was entitled to considerable deference in selecting a Supreme Court justice."

Liberal advocates dispute the comparison between Ginsburg and Roberts. She had a 12-year record as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington when nominated, whereas Roberts has served only two years on the same court, they say.

"Like Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a consensus nominee," said Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way. "Orrin Hatch told President Clinton that Ginsburg was acceptable before she was nominated. She had a long and detailed record from her time as a federal judge. In her case, there was no need for extended hearings."

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
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Supreme Court Nominations
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