With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Was the Kavanaugh Hearing the Worst Supreme Court Fight? You Be the Judge

In declaring her support for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh on Friday, Senator Susan Collins lamented a confirmation process that had become “so dysfunctional it looks more like a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn occasion.”

But partisan fervor over Supreme Court nominations in the United States is nearly as old as the republic itself.

In 1795, George Washington’s nominee to serve as chief justice, John Rutledge, became the first to be voted down by the United States Senate. The rejection was based on his criticism of the Jay Treaty with Britain, one of the most contentious political issues of that time.

In the centuries since the court was established, about 16 percent of candidates submitted to the Senate never donned the coveted black robe — whether by outright rejection, withdrawal or deferring of the nomination. Sometimes the opposition was bipartisan: In 2005, both liberals and conservatives sunk President George W. Bush’s nomination of Harriet E. Miers, the president’s White House counsel.

Read entire article at NYT