Novak distorted Justice Ginsburg's pre-Supreme Court record, claimed she “was on the left edge”

Syndicated columnist and CNN contributor Robert D. Novak stated in his July 25 column that, as a nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “was on the left edge as former general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU].” Novak noted Ginsburg's position with the ACLU to paint her as a left-wing extremist, but he neglected to mention that she later established a largely moderate record during her 13 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, often voting with conservative judges Robert H. Bork, Kenneth W. Starr, and Laurence H. Silberman. Further, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) has written that he recommended Ginsburg to President Clinton for appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993.

Ginsburg's moderate record on the D.C. Circuit belies Novak's statement that she “was on the left edge.” A June 15, 1993, Washington Post article reported that Ginsburg had “straddled the liberal-conservative divide of the D.C. Court of Appeals for the last 13 years” and that her “pragmatic, non-ideological approach” would most likely put her in league with such “centrist-conservatives” as justices Sandra Day O'Connor and David H. Souter. The Post article cited a Legal Times study of the 1987 appeals court that found Ginsburg had voted more consistently with Republican-appointed judges, such as Starr and Silberman, than with Democratic appointees. A June 27, 1993, New York Times article by Neil A. Lewis described Ginsburg's judicial style as “resolutely centrist,” noting that according to the Legal Times study, “in 1987 cases that produced a division on the court, she [Ginsburg] voted with Judge Robert H. Bork 85 percent of the time.”

Utah conservative Hatch wrote in his autobiography, Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator (Basic Books, 2002), that Clinton nominated Ginsburg at his suggestion. Hatch wrote that he had discouraged Clinton in 1993 from nominating then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to the Supreme Court, arguing that “confirmation would not be easy.” Hatch then suggested a few possible nominees, including Ginsburg.

From Novak's July 25 column:

Ginsburg, who was the first high court nominee by a Democratic president in 26 years, is described as ideologically “mainstream.” In fact, she was on the left edge as former general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. Six years earlier, conservative Judge Robert Bork was denied confirmation when hostile questioners drew him into a debate on judicial philosophy. So it was imperative for Democrats to protect Ginsburg by gagging her.