Friday, May 14, 2010

The SCOTUS Bat Mitzvah Syndrome

I started writing a post about the differences between the methods used in Israel and the United States to select Supreme Court justices, and how I'd take some elements from each. Then, after I had already written a paragraph, I decided to see if I've ever written about the subject. Turns out I already did, back in 2005 when Justice Alito was confirmed.

Okay, so I have something to add to what I wrote back then. One of the few things that are better in the American confirmation process than in the Israeli method is that the public in the States (at least the part of it that follows politics and/or legal news) knows a lot more about its justices than Israelis do. However, this sometimes goes too far. I call this the SCOTUS Bat Mitzvah Syndrome, named after an article in the New York Times about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's Bat-Mitzvah. Do we really need to know that she was the first girl to ask to have a Bat Mitzvah at her Orthodox synagogue almost 40 years ago?

I like that in the States, people know a lot about the nominees' judicial philosophies and their approach to the law. On the other hand, I don't think I need to know all kinds of personal details like what kind of student she was in second grade or how nice she was to her staff of student reporters when she worked as a college newspaper editor.

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