U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday criticized the confirmation proceedings for high court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as “a highly partisan show,” telling a Washington audience that she wished she could “wave a magic wand” and return to the days of a less-polarized process.
In conversation with California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu at a gathering of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Ginsburg said “the way it was was right.” She called today’s process “wrong.”
Ginsburg called her 1993 confirmation process “truly bipartisan,” noting that while her White House handlers fretted about how her 10 years of litigation work for the American Civil Liberties Union would be received, “not a single senator” grilled her about the civil liberties organization. She was confirmed on a 96-3 vote.
“That’s the way it should be instead of what it’s become: a highly partisan show with the Republicans moving lockstep. So do the Democrats,” Ginsburg said from on stage at The George Washington University Law School. “I wish I could wave a magic wand and have it go back to the way it was.”
Kavanaugh’s confirmation, expected to be voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, has been marked by intense political division. The committee is expected to move his nomination to the full Senate floor on a party-line vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that Kavanaugh will be confirmed before the Supreme Court begins its new term next month.
Ginsburg offered no comments on Kavanaugh’s qualifications or how his addition could shift a conservative-leaning court further to the right. Instead, her hour-long exchange with Liu, one of the justice’s former law clerks, touched on a broad range of issues, from her thoughts on the biography “Notorious RBG“ to her thoughts on Kate McKinnon’s “Ginsburned” sketch—”I think she’s a very good actress”—to the #MeToo movement.
“I think it has had a huge impact,” she said of women’s efforts to achieve equal pay and equal treatment in the workplace. “My hope is it will not just be Hollywood stars but it will be housekeepers at hotels, for example, and waitresses at restaurants. It was something that was hidden for too long. And now it’s out in the open.”
Liu noted that three women, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, serve on his own court and asked what might be different if the U.S. Supreme Court had four or five women justices. Ginsburg said that in general, diversity on the federal bench is “moving in the right direction, not as fast as you’d like.” She lamented the period when, after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired, she was the only woman on the high court. It gave the public “the wrong image,” she said, of “eight rather well-fed men and one little woman.”
Ginsburg cited “unconscious bias” and the need for more flexible, family-friendly workplace policies as some of the biggest obstacles to greater ethnic and gender diversity in the workplace.
When women and minorities are represented “in numbers rather than a one-at-a-time curiosity, that barrier will fall,” she said.
Noting Ginsburg’s “Notorious” moniker, Liu told the justice that, he too, had been given a nickname. “You know the actress, Jennifer Lopez? She goes by J-Lo. My chief justice calls me J-Liu.”