Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at an Informal Meeting With Members of the White House Press Corps on Judge Haynsworth's Nomination to the Supreme Court

October 20, 1969

Ron Zlegler has suggested that it might be useful to members of the press if from time to time on a specific subject I brief the press myself and then take questions so you can follow through on that subject.

You may recall that I did this on the occasion of the Chief Justice Burger subject, and it seems to me that this type of procedure is one that we can follow.

I want also to say that as far as those who are here for television and radio, you, of course, can only comment on this because we do not have sound and do not have film. But we will have ready, I understand, on December 15th, the new press room in the West Wing. When that is available, we shall have this kind of a briefing session on a subject-by-subject basis in that room so that those who want to get sound or film can get it. We won't do it always that way.

Sometimes we will do it this way, but I think that will be a very useful way to do it.

It will be a very nice room. I was there this morning and it is coming along very well.

This morning this will be on the record and a transcript will be made available to you when we finish.

This morning I have selected as a subject one you have been asking Ron about over the past several weeks, the Haynsworth matter.

In discussing that matter, I want to give you my own thinking with regard to the nomination of Judge Haynsworth, where it stands at the present time, and what my evaluation of the charges that have been made against him is.

You may recall that when I nominated Judge Haynsworth,1 I said that he was the man, of all the circuit judges in the country--and a chief judge, with 12 years experience--that he was the man I considered to be, by age, experience, background, philosophy, the best qualified to serve on the Supreme Court at this time.

Three weeks ago at a press conference I not only had one question on this matter, as I recall, two. I reiterated that position, and today, after having had an opportunity to evaluate all the charges that have been made in the past 3 weeks I reaffirm my support of Judge Haynsworth, and in reaffirming it I reaffirm it with even greater conviction.

I say with greater conviction because when a man has been through the fire, when he has had his entire life and its entire record exposed to the glare of investigation, which, of course, any man who is submitted for confirmation to the Senate should expect to have; and in addition to that, when he has had to go through what I believe to be a vicious character assassination, if after all that he stands up and comes through as a man of integrity, a man of honesty, and a man of qualifications, then that even more indicates that he deserves the support of the President of the United States who nominated him in the first place and also the votes of the Senators who will be voting on his nomination.

I would like to touch upon perhaps three or four of the major points that have been raised. They are technical points, as many of you who have been studying the case will know.

I should say I have some experience in investigations myself, and I have studied this case completely in every respect.

I have read the income tax returns, the financial statements, all the charges that have been made by various Senators, and the answers that have been made on the Senate floor by Judge Marlow Cook,2 by Senator Allott [of Colorado], and also the evaluation, of course, of the Department of Justice.

Based on that examination, I personally now have made and concluded, now that all the evidence is in, there are four or five points, perhaps, that are worth discussing, but more if you want to bring them up in your questions.

The charge is made that Judge Haynsworth should have disqualified himself in six cases involving litigants who were customers of a company in which he owned stock. I have examined those cases and that charge. I agree completely with the American Bar Association, with Judge Sobeloff 3 who conducted an investigation of this matter in 1963 and 1964, and also with John [P.] Frank, the leading authority on conflict of interest, when he said that not only did Judge Haynsworth have no requirement to disqualify himself, he had a responsibility to sit in these cases because in not one of these instances or cases named did Judge Haynsworth use his influence in arty way in behalf of the company in which he owned stock, and in no instance was there any indication that he was influenced whatever in decisions by that stock ownership.

If you want to spread this out just a bit, if we were to apply that kind of a standard to all Federal court judges across this country, I would say that perhaps half of them would have to be impeached, and some in the Supreme Court, because carrying it to the ridiculous end result, if a judge owned stock in U.S. Steel, U.S. Steel has customers, a great number of them, and most of those customers or a great number of them get to the Supreme Court or the Circuit Court of Appeals.

So the judge should not disqualify himself because customers of a company he happens to own stock in are in the court. This charge has no substance.

The second major charge is that Judge Haynsworth had a substantial interest in litigation which he decided as a member of the Circuit Court of Appeals.

Let me be quite precise. The law refers not to a substantial interest in the company or the litigant, but a substantial interest in the case. Of course, that is the proper standard to apply.

In this case, I find that the Senator from Indiana [Birch Bayh] who made the charges cited six cases, and these six cases represent perhaps one of the most glaring examples of sloppy staff work that I have seen in the years of seeing what can happen in such cases. Two of the cases were mistakes, of course, and on the others the question of a substantial interest has been, again, reduced to an absurdity.

In the Brunswick case,4 it is now found, as Judge Marlow Cook pointed out--and he was a judge before he became a Senator, as you know--Judge Haynsworth would have profited by $5.00, at the most--probably $4.92, the exact figure-if the litigant had recovered all the amount that was involved in the case.

In the Grace case,5 which involved,. incidentally, a parent-subsidiary relationship, Judge Haynsworth's stock would have been reduced in value by 48 cents as a result of the decision that he made.

As an indication of the staff work in this case, one of the other reasons was the Greenville Hotel case.6

It is true that Judge Haynsworth did have an interest in the Greenville Hotel. It appeared that years ago as an attorney he was a director for the hotel. Being a director of the hotel he was issued a share of stock in the hotel corporation.

Then after he became a judge, he received a stock dividend of 15 cents, a check which was mailed to him. The judge, of course, returned the check, thinking it was a joke. The company returned it to him. So Judge Haynsworth recorded 15 cents on his income tax return.

Then there is another group of cases that have been raised. That is that Judge Haynsworth should have disqualified himself in those cases involving former clients of his law firm. I should say his former law firm. The law is quite clear here. A judge does not have responsibility and should not disqualify himself in cases involving clients of his former law firm unless that relationship has been very close to the client and has continued close, and also, in point of time, unless the relationship has continued. In other words, the passage of time and the closeness of the relationship is a factor to be considered.

In all of the cases, the 12 which were raised in hearings involving the former clients, it appeared that Judge Haynsworth was beyond suspicion, and, as a matter of fact, not only should not have disqualified himself but had a duty to sit, in my opinion.

Now the Bobby Baker matter. This is guilt by association and character assassination of the very worst type7 Judge Haynsworth knew Bobby Baker. He saw him last 10 years ago. Many of you gentlemen of the press know I used to see him quite often when he was a clerk to the majority. He had three contacts with him. He had no influence on Bobby Baker, and Bobby Baker had no influence on him.

The so-called business deals in which they were partners have been completely laid before the Senate committee, and any suggestion of improper influence has been discounted by Senator Williams [of Delaware], who is kind of a bull on these matters.

I should say, incidentally, while we are talking, I knew Bobby Baker very well myself, too, as the Presiding Officer of the Senate. He was clerk to the majority.

One of the members of my staff, Rose Mary Woods [Personal Secretary to the President], pointed up something I had forgotten. As a matter of fact, Bobby Baker's wife served as a stenographer on my staff for several months when I was a Senator from California.

The fact that I knew him does not make me guilty by association. The fact that Judge Haynsworth along with others knew him, Senator Hollings [of South Carolina] and others, does not make him guilty by association.

On this particular point, I stand very firmly against the use of that tactic.

Now I will go to something a little more fundamental because this involves the decision as to what Senators should consider as they determine whether they confirm a judge for the Supreme Court, or, for that matter, any court.

The question is raised, and one Senator, Senator Magnuson [of Washington], I thought, quite candidly and honestly faced up to this question. He said he did not raise any question with regard to Judge Haynsworth's impropriety charges, but that he simply disagreed with his philosophy on certain matters, civil rights and labor law.

That is a ground which a Senator can give for rejecting, perhaps, Judge Haynsworth. I do not believe it is a proper ground. I would agree with those Senators, many of whom are now opposing Judge Haynsworth, who, in the [Associate Justice Thurgood] Marshall confirmation, categorically said that a judge's philosophy was not a proper basis for rejecting him from the Supreme Court.

Looking back over the history of the cases, as I said when you were here before on the Burger matter, among my heroes of the Court is Louis Brandeis. If philosophy were a test for him, he would have been ruled out because he was too liberal.

Another was Charles Evans Hughes. If philosophy had been a test for him he would have been ruled out because he was too conservative in representing the business interests.

If you want to go back and read what really can happen in cases of this sort, I would suggest you read the debate over Louis Brandeis and also the confirmation of Charles Evans Hughes, in which they poured on him all the filth they could possibly amass because of his connection with insurance companies. Also like Judge Haynsworth, he had represented various other interests.

As far as philosophy is concerned, I would be inclined to agree with the writer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch 8 who said he thought Judge Haynsworth was a man with a razor sharp mind and a middle of the road record on the major issues.

But if Judge Haynsworth's philosophy leans to the conservative side, in my view that recommends him to me. I think the Court needs balance, and I think that the Court needs a man who is conservative-and I use the term not in terms of economics, but conservative, as I said of Judge Burger, conservative in respect to his attitude towards the Constitution.

It is the judge's responsibility and the Supreme Court's responsibility, to interpret the Constitution and interpret the law, and not to go beyond that in putting his own socio-economic philosophy into decisions in a way that goes beyond the law, beyond the Constitution.

Now the final point, and this one is one that troubles, I think, many people who are not prejudiced against Judge Haynsworth because he is a southerner or because of his civil rights record or because of his labor record.

It is this: At this time in our history, it is very important to have a man that is beyond reproach.

An editorial in the Washington Post, I thought quite a thoughtful editorial, was quite candid in saying that the charges against him on the ethical side were not warranted, or at least were not with the foundation they should be, but because a doubt had been raised, that the name should be withdrawn.

I just want to say categorically here, I shall never accept that philosophy with regard to Judge Haynsworth.

The appearance of impropriety, some say, is enough to disqualify a man who served as judge or in some other capacity. That would mean that anybody who wants to make a charge can thereby create the appearance of impropriety, raise a doubt, and that then his name should be withdrawn.

That isn't our system. Under our system, a man is innocent until he is proven guilty.

Judge Haynsworth, when the charges were made, instead of withdrawing his name, as he could--and, incidentally, if he now asks for his name to be withdrawn, I would not do so--Judge Haynsworth, when the charges were made, openly came before the committee, answered all the questions, and submitted his case to the committee, and now to the full Senate.

I have examined the charges. I find that Judge Haynsworth is an honest man. I find that he has been, in my opinion as a lawyer, a lawyer's lawyer and a judge's judge. I think he will be a great credit to the Supreme Court, and I am going to stand by him until he is confirmed. I trust he will be.


Q. Mr. President, how much of this attack on Judge Haynsworth do you think is an attack, an end run attempt to get at you?

THE PRESIDENT. I have read some of the "spec stories" on that, but I am not going to be involved in that.

The Brandeis case was not a very proud moment in the history of the United States Senate. There was anti-Semitism in it and there was also a very strong partisan attitude towards Woodrow Wilson.

The Hughes debate was not a proud moment. There were a lot of partisan considerations that entered into it. This was a great man and a great Chief Justice, as was Judge Brandeis.

I don't think the Parker nomination9 was a very happy moment either.

I don't hold any brief for any one of these men in terms of philosophy. I don't agree with them, but no lawyer agrees with every other lawyer on everything. But in Judge Parker's case, it was not proper to turn down a man because he was a southerner.

It is not proper to turn down a man because he is a southerner, because he is a Jew, because he is a Negro, or because of his philosophy.

The question is: What kind of a lawyer is he? What is his attitude toward the Constitution? Is he a man of integrity? Is he a man that will call the great cases that come before him as he sees them, and in this case will provide the balance that this great Court needs? I think Judge Haynsworth does that.

Q. Mr. President, it has been suggested, and I wonder what you think of the idea, that every member of the Federal judiciary holding a lifetime appointment, to avoid this kind of trouble, place their investments perhaps in some kind of a blind trust or perhaps in some kind of fund.

THE PRESIDENT. Bill [unidentified], as you noticed, Judge Haynsworth said he would put his stocks into trust. I suppose the American Bar Association or, for that matter, the Senate, or the Congress, could lay down some sort of a rule about that to really meet the problem.

I don't happen to think that blind trusts, particularly in the public mind, are going to remove these questions. That is one of the reasons, as a matter of fact, before I came to office, I disposed of every stock I owned. I own nothing but real estate.

Q. What would you say, Mr. President, when people say you selected Haynsworth in large part because of political obligations?

THE PRESIDENT. I selected Judge Haynsworth for the reasons that I mentioned. I was looking for a man, first, who, like Judge Burger, had broad experience as an appeals judge, a Court of Appeals judge--that is the next highest court to the Supreme Court--who was the right age, and who also had a philosophy for the Constitution similar to my own because that is what a President is expected to do.

As far as a political obligation is concerned, I had no political obligation to select Judge Haynsworth or Judge Burger.

In fact, my acquaintance with Judge Haynsworth can only be casual. If he would walk into this room, I am afraid I wouldn't recognize him.

Q. Can you tell me on what you base your confidence in the confirmation, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. The Senate is a body in which time and discussion work on the side of fairness and justice. That sounds like a cliche, I suppose.

As a former Member of the Senate it is perhaps a self-serving statement. But I am convinced that when Senators read the record, as I did, not just the editorials but the record, the evidence, and as they study every one of these cases--and believe me, I have studied every one of them--if I had found one case where there was a serious doubt, I would have had him removed because I want that Court to be above reproach.

If the Senators do that, I believe a majority of the Senators will vote for Judge Haynsworth's confirmation.

Let me say this too: It is not a partisan matter.

To answer your earlier question, sure, there is some partisanship, I suppose. That is perhaps part of the game, and perhaps with some Republicans. I am not questioning their motives.

All I ask is that every Senator should look very carefully into this record because he has to make the decision that I had to make.

Let me be quite candid. There were those, good friends of mine, who came to me a few weeks ago suggesting I withdraw Judge Haynsworth's nomination due to the fact that a doubt had been raised and that politically it was going to be very difficult to wield.

I had to consider then whether because charges had been made without proof, and whether there was a doubt, whether I would then take upon my hands the destruction of a man's whole life, to destroy his reputation, to drive him from the bench and public service.

I did not do so, and I think that as Senators consider what they will be doing as they vote on this matter, as they consider the evidence, they will realize that they are dealing here with an honest man, a man who has laid all the facts before them, a man who is qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, and I think they will conclude as I did that there is no dishonor in standing with an honest man.

Q. Senator Griffin [of Michigan] is one of the men you referred to, and he has studied this record, case by case. How do you account for Senator Griffin's point of view?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope he will study it further. I trust that after he studies it more, he will change his mind.

Q. One of the things that has happened in the Haynsworth case is that there has been a piecemeal revelation of details.

Is there a problem in our Government, a problem of confidence with Congress and with judges, that we do not have a more comprehensive disclosure law?

THE PRESIDENT. The matter of piecemeal disclosure is because the critics have chosen to make the charges this way.

Some Senators were worried about when the other shoe would drop. I saw the other shoe, and it wasn't even a slipper. We wondered why Senator Bayh wouldn't debate Senator Hollings. Senator Bayh is a very articulate man. But after reading the record I know why. He was'! well advised not to debate.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

1 The announcement of the nomination of Judge Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on August 18, 1969, together with biographical information, is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 1164).

2 Senator Marlow W. Cook of Kentucky.

3 Simon E. Sobeloff was the Chief Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals at the time Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., was a judge on the Court.

4 Brunswick Corp. v. Long, 1967 (392 F2d 348).

5 Farrow v. Grace Lines, Inc., 1967 (381 F2d 380).

6 Darter v. Greenville Community Hotel Corp., 1962 (301 F2d 70).

7 Robert G. Baker resigned as Secretary for the Senate Majority on October 7, 1963. Findings of an investigation into charges against Mr. Baker are set forth in Senate Report 1175 of July 8, 1964 entitled "Financial or Business Interests of Officers or Employees of the Senate" by the Committee on Rules and Administration.

8 In an article on August 19, 1969, entitled "Judicial Restraint Shown in Rulings by Haynsworth ."

9 The nomination of Judge John J. Parker of North Carolina to the Supreme Court was rejected May 7, 1930.

Note: The President spoke at 11:18 a.m. in his office at the White House.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at an Informal Meeting With Members of the White House Press Corps on Judge Haynsworth's Nomination to the Supreme Court Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives