The Right Coast

November 14, 2005
Judge Ginsberg, conservative
By Tom Smith

This article in the Post suggests how Justice Ginsberg was actually a rather conservative judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, and cites a study of her votes on panels in 1987. Allow me to express my skepticism. Perhaps one should look at more years than just 1987. I clerked on that court in 1984-85, and I think the reaction of most clerks, at least those who clerked for conservative (relatively) judges, would be that Judge Ginsberg was a solidly liberal member of that court. Widely held in high regard, but liberal.

Besides, what exactly is the point of arguing about how liberal she seemed to be before she was a Justice, since it is perfectly possible to see how liberal she is now that she is a Justice? (Maybe even liberal justices grow in office -- a sobering thought) Is the argument supposed to be, when Republicans voted to confirm Ginsberg, they did not think she was as liberal as she has subsequently turned out to be, therefore she does not count as an example of Republicans voting to confirm someone they knew to be liberal, therefore Democrats should not be obliged to vote for someone they believe to be conservative? If so, I think we may suggest Democrats pretend Judge Alito is not a conservative, and vote for him. They would be wrong; he does indeed seem to be a conservative. But they would be no more wrong than any Republicans who thought Ginsberg was a centrist, and voted for her. And so, all would be fair, as we know our Democratic friends are keen on its being.