'It's Wrong': Justice Ginsburg Laments Partisan Confirmation Process

Posted: Sep 13, 2018 12:50 PM

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was easily confirmed by a vote of 96-3 when President Bill Clinton nominated her in 1993.

What a contrast to the slog in the Senate today. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was just treated to four brutal days of confirmation hearings, where the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee used Kavanaugh's old speeches and writings to suggest he would overturn Roe v. Wade, or protect the president from accountability. They also lambasted one another, and protesters interrupted proceedings every five minutes.

At an event at George Washington on Wednesday, Ginsburg shared her wish that Kavanaugh could receive the same fair treatment she did when she was in his seat.

"The way it was, was right," she told former Ginsburg clerk and current California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu. "The way it is, is wrong. The atmosphere in '93 was truly bipartisan."

She had proof. Ginsburg recalled that the Clinton White House handlers were "nervous" about the 10 years she spent litigating cases under the ACLU board. They were convinced that the Senate would press her on that part of her judicial record. She told the White House she refused to "bad mouth" the group, but it turned out she didn't need to anyway. There was "not a single question from any senator about it," she said.

It was the same for Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia. Scalia had been on D.C. circuit and the Senate had plenty of material to work with in terms of their interrogation. Yet, the vote was unanimous - every Democrat and every Republican voted for him.

"That's the way it should be," she said.

By contrast, last week senators grilled Kavanaugh about every group he's ever associated himself with, and analyzed ever word he's ever written.

It has become "a highly partisan show," she said. Both Democrats and Republicans move in "lock step" now. 

"I wish I could wave a magic wand and have it go back to the way it was," she shared.

Ginsburg won the Allegheny College civility award last year, where she took the opportunity to speak highly of her friend, the late Justice Scalia. Despite their political differences, she shared a "special fondness" for him.