Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, criticizing his former colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg for inappropriate interventions in political questions.
Ginsburg and Silberman served together on the D.C. Circuit, widely considered the second most important court in the country, for eight years prior to her elevation to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. Given their close working relationship, Silberman’s public criticism of the justice is all the more surprising.
His criticism is trained primarily on remarks Ginsburg made during last year’s general election, when she referred to President Donald Trump as a “faker” and mused about moving to New Zealand should he prevail. As of this writing, Justice Ginsburg is still in Washington.
“Her comments were as openly political as any justice has been in my memory — perhaps ever,” he wrote.
Silberman also criticized Ginsburg’s endorsement of Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the high court, as well as the criticism she levied against Senate Republicans for successfully blocking his nominations for nearly ten months.
“Now I will admit that Merrick Garland is a dear friend and I thought him the best Democrat nominee,” he wrote. “But judges are ethically bound not to state a public position for or against a pending nominee to a federal court. At that point, it’s a political question.”
“I knew Justice Ginsburg once as a disciplined, relatively restrained colleague on the District of Columbia Circuit, and therefore I regret very much her evolution,” he added.
He blamed the pernicious influence of the Supreme Court press corp for Ginsburg’s evolution, colloquially referred to as the “Greenhouse effect.” Named for Linda Greenhouse, who covered the Supreme Court for The New York Times for nearly 30 years, the theory asserts that a press corp dominated by results-oriented liberals can shape outcomes at the Court and the behavior of the justices.
Silberman was appointed to the D.C. Circuit by President Reagan in 1985. He assumed senior status in 2000 — in this capacity he continues to participate in cases on a limited basis. Before his appointment to the bench, he served as deputy attorney general in the Ford administration, and briefly as U.S. ambassador to the former Yugoslavia.