Questioning Supreme Court Nominees About Their Views on Legal or Constitutional Issues: A Recurring Issue [June 23, 2010] [open pdf - 286KB]
"In recent decades a recurring Senate issue has been what kinds of questions are appropriate for Senators to pose to a Supreme Court nominee appearing at hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Particularly at issue has been whether, or to what extent, questions by committee members should seek out a nominee's personal views on current legal or constitutional issues or on past Supreme Court decisions that have involved those issues. [...] This report also examines four recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings and provides excerpts of Senators asking, and nominees responding to, questions. It reveals a usual practice of nominees declining to respond to committee questions seeking their views about current legal or constitutional issues. Notable in this regard were the 1993 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In her opening statement to the Judiciary Committee, Judge Ginsburg articulated a limit on what the Senators could expect their questioning to elicit from her, stating she would be constrained, when responding to questions, from providing any 'previews,' 'hints,' or 'forecasts' of how she as a Justice might cast her vote on issues coming before the Court: These limits subsequently came to be known informally as the 'Ginsburg Rule,' standing for the principle--invoked frequently by later Court nominees--that nominees should not, in replying to questions from Judiciary Committee members, disclose their personal views or opinions on issues if there were a possibility the issues in the future would come before the Court."
CRS Report for Congress, R41300
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