Remarks Announcing the Nomination of Douglas H. Ginsburg To Be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court


October 29, 1987


The President. I am announcing today that, in accordance with my duty under the Constitution, I intend to nominate and ask the Senate to confirm Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.


Judge Ginsburg is a highly regarded member of the legal profession. His career as a Federal judge, as Assistant Attorney General of the United States, as a senior official at the Office of Management and Budget, as a distinguished professor at Harvard Law School, and as a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall makes him eminently qualified to sit on our highest court. Just as importantly, Judge Ginsburg is highly respected by his peers across the political spectrum. When I nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals last year, he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate and won lavish praise not just from conservatives but from liberals, as well.


Judge Ginsburg is, as I am, as every justice I've nominated has been, a believer in judicial restraint; that is, that the proper role of the courts is to interpret the law, not make it. In our democracy, our elected representatives make laws, and unelected judges interpret the laws. And that's the foundation of our system of government. Above all, judges must be guided by our most fundamental law: the Constitution. Every judge that I appoint must understand that he or she serves under the Constitution, not above it, and Judge Ginsburg is such a judge.


Throughout his professional career, Judge Ginsburg has shown that he also believes, as I do, that the courts must administer fair and firm justice, while remembering not just the rights of criminals but, equally important, the rights of the victims of crime and the rights of society. Too often, judges have reinterpreted the Constitution and have made law enforcement a game in which clever lawyers can try to find ways to trip up the police on the rules. This is not what our Founding Fathers intended when they framed our Constitution 200 years ago. They knew that among the most vital duties of government was to ``ensure domestic tranquility.'' They drafted a Constitution and gave us a system that was true to that duty, while protecting the rights of all Americans. I believe that Judge Ginsburg will take a tough, clear-eyed view of this essential purpose of the Constitution, while remaining sensitive to the safety of our citizens and to the problems facing law enforcement professionals.


Much has been said about my agenda for the courts. I want courts that protect the rights of all citizens. No one has rights when criminals are allowed to prey on society. Judge Ginsburg understands that, and that's why I am nominating him. That's why I have selected each of the people I have put forward for the Supreme Court. In taking up this nomination, I hope we can all resolve not to permit a repetition of the campaign of pressure politics that has so recently chilled the judicial selection process. It is time for the Senate to show that it will join with me in defending the integrity and independence of the American system of justice.


And a good way to begin would be by holding hearings promptly. When Justice Powell announced his retirement 4 months ago, he made it plain that he believed it would be unfair to the parties with cases before the Supreme Court, and unfair to the remaining members of the Court, to be left without nine full-time Justices. He graciously stepped down from the Court to enable the President and the Congress to select his replacement before this October term began. But as a result of the longest delay in starting hearings to fill a vacant seat on the Court since the custom of taking testimony from Supreme Court nominees first began in 1939, the Nation's highest court is still operating at less than full strength over 4 months later.


The long delay in scheduling hearings for Judge Bork had other results, as well. Since June 1987, when Justice Powell resigned, the work of the Supreme Court has grown even more burdensome. All during the months of July, August, and September, nearly one-third of the literally hundreds of cases that the remaining eight Justices reviewed for hearing were criminal cases. Throughout this time, the empty seat on the Supreme Court has been a casualty in the fight for victims' rights and the war against crime.


During the last 25 years, the average time between nomination and the start of hearings has been less than 18 days. In fact, in the entire 200-year history of our country, since the nomination of John Jay, the average start-to-finish time from a President's appointment to confirmation or other action by the Senate has been only 24 days. One Senator has boasted that the reason for the 70-day delay in beginning Judge Robert Bork's hearings was to allow time to gear up the political campaign against him. And that was, very simply, a disservice to the Court and to the Nation. If these hearings take longer than 3 weeks to get going, the American people will know what's up.


It's time to put the national interest ahead of partisan political interests. No excuses about the press of other business before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There's no more important business before that committee than to bring the Supreme Court up to full strength. The Senate has a duty in this regard, just as I do. So, this is my call to the Senate today: Let us all resolve that the process of confirming a Supreme Court nominee will never again be distorted. Alexander Hamilton wrote that ``the complete independence of the courts of justice is essential in the Constitution.'' Let us resolve this time that guarding that independence will be the Senate's highest priority. The American people want this. They have a right to expect it.


By selecting Judge Ginsburg, I've gone the extra mile to ensure a speedy confirmation. I've been impressed by the fact that in academia, in government, and on the bench Judge Ginsburg has been enormously popular with colleagues of all political persuasions. A word that many have used to describe Douglas Ginsburg is ``unpretentious.'' Now, that's quite a compliment for a judge. [Laughter] But I guess that's just one reflection of a man who believes profoundly in the rule of law. In the last analysis, it is just such men and women who ensure the continued respect for our constitutional system. And that's why I'm so pleased to nominate Judge Douglas Ginsburg to the highest court of our nation.


Let me say in closing, it is up to all of us to see to it that Senate consideration of Judge Ginsburg's nomination is fair and dispassionate and, above all, prompt. I believe America is looking for a sign that this time the process will protect the independence of our judiciary as the framers of the Constitution intended. I urge Senator Biden and Senator Thurmond and the other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to join me in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation and to demonstrate this spirit by meeting during this coming week to schedule hearings on this nomination.


And now, I believe that Judge Ginsburg, who already has one supporter in the group -- [laughter] -- has a few words to say.


Judge Ginsburg. Thank you, Mr. President. I want to express my deep appreciation for the confidence you've placed in me and nominating me to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. I just want to say that I'm looking forward to the confirmation process and, upon confirmation, to taking a place in the Court and playing a part in the work that it does that's so important in our system of government. Thank you again.


Note: The President spoke at 2 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.