'Ginsburg Standard' Pits Parties

Article excerpt

Byline: Guy Taylor, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Senate Judiciary Committee split along party lines yesterday over whether Judge John G. Roberts Jr. must answer questions about his views on issues such as abortion and civil liberties during this week's confirmation hearings.

"No matter how badly senators want to know things, judicial nominees are limited in what they may discuss," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican. "Nominees may not be able to answer questions that seek hints, forecasts or previews about how they would rule on particular issues."

Referring to the so-called "Ginsburg standard," Mr. Hatch said Ruth Bader Ginsburg's handling of questions during her Supreme Court confirmation in 1993 laid groundwork for why nominees should be allowed to avoid answering certain questions.

"She said, quote, 'A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints; for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process,' unquote," Mr. Hatch said.

"She refused nearly 60 times to answer questions, including mine," he said. "[She] did what every Supreme Court nominee has done: She drew the line she believed was necessary to protect her impartiality and independence."

Democrats said Judge Roberts has a special responsibility to provide answers to tough questions.

"Some have called for a 'dignified process,' " said Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, who graduated from Harvard Law School the same year as Judge Roberts.

"If by 'dignified' they mean that tough and probing questions are out of bounds, I must strongly disagree," Mr. Feingold said.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the committee's ranking Democrat, called the hearing "the only chance that . …