This month’s American Bar Association Journal features a cover story on the Supreme Court nomination process called “No More Kabuki Confirmations,” complete with a backdrop of paper lanterns, cherry blossoms and ukiyo-e figures.
It’s a “Kabuki dance,” said Joe Biden when he was a senator on the Judiciary Committee. U.S. Supreme Court nominees give the illusion of responding to senators’ questions, but say little of importance.
… Biden’s successor, Sen. Ted Kaufman, told the National Law Journal that the process resembled the Super Bowl—with press coverage all around.
It’s “a subtle minuet,” said Sen. Arlen Specter during the hearing for Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., “with the nominee answering as many questions as he thinks are necessary in order to be confirmed.”
For his part, Justice Felix Frankfurter, plagued during his confirmation hearing with suggestions that he was partial to communists, favored the athletic comparison. “I thought that it would just be a little room where we would sit around,” he said of the Judiciary Committee hearing. “I found that this was Madison Square Garden.”
Whether likened to theater, dance or a sporting event, the confirmation process for the Supreme Court has become a set piece of punch and counterpunch, with enough irritation left from one process to undermine the next.
A kabuki minuet in Madison Square Garden would be pretty awesome, but probably not all that similar to the Sotomayor hearings.