Orrin Hatch will be up for reelection in 2012 and has said that he will seek reelection. As a basic premise for this blog I want to posit that Obama will win reelection in 2012.
It is very likely that we will see vacancies in the Supreme Court arise between 2012 and 2016. Justice Ginsburg will be 79 and has sidestepped pancreatic cancer, which is almost always a killer. Justice Scalia will be 76 as will Justice Kennedy. Justice Breyer will be 74. If Obama nominates Justices, it would be merely a swap of a liberal for a liberal in the cases of retirement for Breyer or Ginsburg. If Obama were to replace either Scalia or Kennedy it would be disastrous for case law for decades. Scalia is hard right, and Kennedy is the moderate swing vote in the Court. GOP purists may curse Kennedy's name, but at least he votes conservative half(?) of the time. If Obama can replace him with another Sotomayor or Kagan, then the liberal justices will always get the majority ruling.
Speaking of liberal justices, who do we have to thank for Justice Ginsburg being nominated to the Supreme Court? Gold ole Uncle Orrin. He also bears responsibility for the nomination of Justice Breyer, now retired. In 1993 President Clinton contacted Orrin Hatch, the then ranking minority member of the Senate judiciary committee, for advice on supreme court nominations. From Hatch's autobiography:
[It] was not a surprise when the President called to talk about the appointment and what he was thinking of doing.
President Clinton indicated he was leaning toward nominating Bruce Babbitt, his Secretary of the Interior, a name that had been bouncing around in the press. Bruce, a well-known western Democrat, had been the governor of Arizona and a candidate for president in 1988. Although he had been a state attorney general back during the 1970s, he was known far more for his activities as a politician than as a jurist. Clinton asked for my reaction.
I told him that confirmation would not be easy. At least one Democrat would probably vote against Bruce, and there would be a great deal of resistance from the Republican side. I explained to the President that although he might prevail in the end, he should consider whether he wanted a tough, political battle over his first appointment to the Court.
Our conversation moved to other potential candidates. I asked whether he had considered Judge Stephen Breyer of the First Circuit Court of Appeals or Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. President Clinton indicated he had heard Breyer’s name but had not thought about Judge Ginsberg.
I indicated I thought they would be confirmed easily. I knew them both and believed that, while liberal, they were highly honest and capable jurists and their confirmation would not embarrass the President. From my perspective, they were far better than the other likely candidates from a liberal Democrat administration.
In the end, the President did not select Secretary Babbitt. Instead, he nominated Judge Ginsburg and Judge Breyer a year later, when Harry Blackmun retired from the Court. Both were confirmed with relative ease.
The Los Angeles Times documented Hatch's involvement in Ginsburg's nomination at the time, in a June 16, 1993, article: "Clinton also heard from conservatives, including Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who recommended Ginsburg as the sort of moderate the Senate could easily support." (emphasis mine)
What about Ginsburg's pro choice views, did Uncle Orrin object to those?
When Hatch was asked if he is concerned about Ginsburg's pro-choice views on abortion, he said, "I feel that issue was chosen in the last presidential election." Then he praised Ginsburg as "a great scholar, a person of high integrity with good judicial temperament."
Prior to serving as an justice on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Ginsburg had a long career as an ACLU attorney who had argued cases before the Supreme Court. Her record was easily ascertainable to Orrin Hatch. Yet he considered her to have high integrity, good judicial temperament? How could he view her as moderate?
Orrin Hatch fought hard for Clarence Thomas during his nomination process, but then worked for the democrats to get Ginsburg and Breyer confirmed. In his role he could have and should have fought the nomination of these far left liberal justices. I do not often find myself in agreement with the party purists, but here is an instance where purity must be demanded. Hatch cannot be trusted to vote against any nominee that Obama may appoint to the Supreme Court. It is far past time for him to enjoy retirement.