WASHINGTON (Aug. 3)
For the first time in nearly a quarter century, the U.S. Supreme Court will again have a Jewish justice, in the wake of a vote by the Senate this week to confirm the nomination of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg, who was to be sworn in Tuesday, was confirmed Tuesday by a vote of 96-3. She will be the first Jewish woman ever to sit on the high court and the first Jewish justice to serve since Abe Fortas resigned in 1969.
President Clinton praised Ginsburg, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals here, as “an outstanding jurist who demonstrated in the confirmation process tremendous intellect, integrity, comprehension of the law and compassion for the concerns of all Americans.
“I am confident that she will be an outstanding addition to the court and will serve with distinction for many years,” the president said in a statement following Tuesday’s vote.
The overwhelming majority favoring Ginsburg was no surprise and provided a boost to the Clinton administration as it faced a series of other battles this week with Congress.
The only senators to oppose Ginsburg were Republicans Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Robert Smith of New Hampshire and Don Nickles of Oklahoma. Helms had said he was concerned about Ginsburg’s support for abortion rights and opposition to discrimination against gay men and lesbians.
TESTIMONY IMPRESSED MANY
Ginsburg had impressed the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as the president and other court-watchers, during her confirmation hearings last month.
The committee unanimously approved her nomination last week.
Viewed as a moderate, Ginsburg was cautious in her remarks to the committee, not specifying what she thought about a variety of controversial topics.
However, in the course of her testimony, she did voice strong support for abortion rights and strong distaste for discrimination, thereby lining up with the majority of the organized Jewish community.
Ginsburg spoke of her own experiences with anti-Semitism and of her grandparents fleeing European pogroms to come to the United States.
Some Jewish organizational officials wished she had been more outspoken on church-state issues, but others felt her testimony indicated she would be strong on church-state separation, an issue of concern to the Jewish community.
Ginsburg said she would not tamper with the so-called Lemon Test, a legal doctrine advocating strict standards for church-state separation, unless she had something better with which to replace it.
The Lemon Test, supported by most Jewish groups with the exception of some Orthodox organizations, has been under attack by some Supreme Court justices.