The Ginsburg Standard: ‘No Hints, No Forecasts, No Previews’

by Ed Whelan

In her opening statement at her 1993 confirmation hearing (transcript here), Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained that she could “offer no forecasts, no hints” on how she might rule on issues that might come before the Supreme Court:

You are well aware that I come to this proceeding to be judged as a judge, not as an advocate. Because I am and hope to continue to be a judge, it would be wrong for me to say or to preview in this legislative chamber how I would cast my vote on questions the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide. Were I to rehearse here what I would say and how I would reason on such questions, I would act injudiciously.

Judges in our system are bound to decide concrete cases, not abstract issues. Each case comes to court based on particular facts and its decision should turn on those facts and the governing law, stated and explained in light of the particular arguments the parties or their representatives present. 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. [Emphasis added.]

As she put it later in responding to a question about possible constitutional protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation:

I cannot address that question without violating what I said had to be my rule about no hints, no forecasts, no previews. [Emphasis added.]

Instead, she explained, the Senate should “judge [her] qualifications principally on [her] written record” of judicial rulings, briefs, and articles,” and she was happy to discuss those at her hearing.

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