Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations

By Norman Vieira; Leonard Gross | Go to book overview

18
THE NEW NOMINEES: GINSBURG AND KENNEDY

When the Bork hearings ended, it was widely believed that the hearings had established a precedent which would require vigorous questioning of Supreme Court nominees by the Senate Judiciary Committee and detailed responses from the nominees about their judicial philosophy. As Senator Leahy remarked shortly after the vote rejecting the Bork nomination, "So many people got so interested [in the Bork hearings] and so sensitized that they're not going to let their senators get away with not giving the next nominee a great deal of scrutiny."1SenatorBiden and others agreed that future nominees would be subjected to in-depth questioning that would force them to share their judicial views in the same way that Judge Bork had done.

These assertions of senatorial prerogative were to be tested quickly and repeatedly. Over the next several years, confirmation hearings would be held for five nominees to the Supreme Court. Action on those nominations reveals much about the meaning of the Bork precedent and the new senatorial prerogatives.

The immediate task for the Reagan administration, after Judge Bork's nomination had been defeated, was to find a confirmable successor to Justice Powell. The list of potential nominees was quickly narrowed to fewer than half a dozen candidates. Two of the candidates, Anthony Kennedy and Douglas Ginsburg -- both then serving on federal courts of appeals -- emerged as the leading contenders. Kennedy had a clearly conservative record during more than a decade of service as a federal judge. He was nevertheless perceived to be a "moderate" conservative who could win easy confirmation.

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