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Ginsburg Faults GOP Critics, Cites a Threat From 'Fringe'

Kathleen L. Arberg, a court spokeswoman, declined to say yesterday whether the threat resulted in any special precautions, citing a court rule against discussing security measures.

But Ginsburg joked in her speech that O'Connor, though recently retired, "remains alive and well." She added: "As for me, you can judge for yourself."

Ginsburg's comments in Johannesburg were not the first tough words she has aimed at congressional Republicans.

In February 2001, speaking before an Australian audience, she took aim at DeLay, who had floated the idea of impeaching judges because of their rulings. DeLay, she noted on that occasion, "is not a lawyer but, I'm told, an exterminator by profession."

But this year's speech showed how committed Ginsburg has become to the use of foreign legal materials since her appointment to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

While emphasizing that the rulings and reasoning of non-U.S. courts are not "controlling authorities," she told the South African audience that foreign law can be a useful source of common standards of fairness. The Supreme Court's citation of them shows "comity and a spirit of humility" toward other countries, she said.

On the Supreme Court, Ginsburg's view is backed, to one degree or another, by Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer and David H. Souter.

It is strongly opposed by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The court's two newest members, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., have not yet written opinions in cases involving foreign law, but both voiced objections to its use at their confirmation hearings.

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