The Senate's take-no-prisoners partisan warfare over U.S. Appeals Court Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination and Kavanaugh's own decidedly injudicious denunciations of his political enemies have placed the court in an unwelcome spotlight as it begins a new term Monday.

The political underpinnings of the court — conservative justices nominated by Republican presidents, liberal ones named by Democrats — are never far from the surface. But justices on both sides strive to stress that ideological rather than partisan concerns account for their disagreements.

Dennis Burke, who was a Democratic counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas hearings, said he felt a sense of "deja vu" last week. "People look at [the Clarence Thomas hearings] now and say this is not a functional process," said Burke. "This isn't really a proper fact-finding or a full investigation — it's just a political process."

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