Significance: Despite having served only a year on the federal bench, Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987. The failure of his nomination due to questions about his inexperience and personal life set a precedent for later investigations of presidential appointees to the Court and federal judiciary.
A graduate of University of Chicago Law School, Ginsburg served as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall from 1974 to 1975. He later held a professorship at Harvard Law School and worked in the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget before President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1986. In 1987 Reagan nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., following the rejection of his first choice, Judge Robert H. Bork, by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ginsburg's youth and relative inexperience were considered assets by the Reagan administration, which sought a conservative nominee without the documented ultraconservative reputation that had cost Bork his nomination. Nevertheless, the committee subjected Ginsburg to intense criticism due to his sparse judicial record and conflicts of interests that allegedly occurred during his tenure with the Department of Justice. After admitting to smoking marijuana as a student and as a professor, Ginsburg abruptly withdrew his name from consideration and returned to his position as federal judge on the District of Columbia Circuit. The Reagan administration then nominated the relatively moderate Judge Anthony M. Kennedy, who was quickly confirmed.