Roberts Rx: Speak Up, But Shut Up
''Justice Ginsburg declined to answer senators' questions 55 times,'' said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. The senator said he would love to know Judge Roberts's views of court rulings on the taking of private property and the display of the Ten Commandments. ''But,'' he said, ''I recognize that there are limits.''
''If he is a Miguel Estrada and just refuses abjectly to answer everything it would make a filibuster more likely,'' said Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat. He called the Ginsburg precedent ''a myth'' and said she answered numerous questions about past cases and judicial philosophy.
The very practice of subjecting a Supreme Court nominee to intensive questioning is relatively new; there were no hearings at all until the 20th century and the first would-be justice to testify on his own behalf was Felix Frankfurter in 1939, according to Donald A. Ritchie, the associate Senate historian. ''He showed up and gave a very genial testimony,'' Mr. Ritchie said.
Things have grown more orchestrated since. When Antonin Scalia came before the Judiciary Committee in 1986, he refused even to say whether he subscribed to the principle of Marbury v. Madison, the fundamental 1803 decision that established the authority of the Supreme Court to strike down laws as unconstitutional.
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