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OPINION | Supreme Court Nominees Should Disclose Views on Constitutional Issues, USA Today Opinion Piece States

OPINION | Supreme Court Nominees Should Disclose Views on Constitutional Issues, USA Today Opinion Piece States
[July 17, 2009]

One thing that "has been conspicuously absent" from the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is "substance," Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, writes in a USA Today opinion piece. According to Turley, "The vast majority of questions and answers remained on a shallow and predictable level where Sotomayor did little more than describe current doctrines and case law -- avoiding disclosures of her own views." He continues, "What is most striking is how Sotomayor's statements were virtually identical to both her conservative and liberal predecessors," including her comments that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are "the precedent of the court."

Turley writes, "The content-light character in these hearings is largely the product of the 'Ginsburg rule' -- named after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who refused to answer questions in her 1993 confirmation hearing about any case or matter upon which she might later vote." According to Turley, "Later nominees for both parties have relied on the Ginsburg rule to turn the hearings into prolonged photo-ops for senators, who largely ask wafer-thin questions to solicit largely scripted answers." The rule "allows nominees to get by with meaningless sound bites that promise to respect precedent, the Framers [of the Constitution] and collegiality in general," he adds. Furthermore, it "tells the public nothing about a nominee's philosophy or purpose before giving her life tenure on the world's most powerful court," Turley writes.

According to Turley, there is a "simple solution to returning substance to the confirmation process: End the Ginsburg rule by insisting that nominees answer questions about their specific views on constitutional rights." Although "the current system works well for presidents, nominees and senators," it "does little for the public or the system of justice," he writes (Turley, USA Today, 7/16).