After much public scrutiny and several weeks of grueling press coverage, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States in October of 2018. While many of us heard the accusations and Kavanuahg’s rebuttals against them, what many never got to hear was the actual background of the 114th Supreme Court justice. Who is Brett Kavanaugh, exactly? What is his background, and what are his political views? Whichever side of the debate you were on, the fact remains that he was confirmed, so knowing this information is valuable to the American public.
Education and Career History
Born in Washington and raised in the Maryland suburbs, Kavanaugh lived his life in the Greater DC Area. He went to Georgetown Preparatory School, and received his undergraduate and law degrees from Yale. He currently resides with his wife and two daughters in Chevy Chase.
He spent the vast majority of his career in government jobs rather than in private practice. Beginning in 1993 he was a clerk for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the justice he would eventually replace. He served four years as an assistant to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr in the investigations of the Clinton administration and the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster. He then served five years in the administration of President George W. Bush. He worked first as an associate counsel and later as a staff secretary. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and he was confirmed in 2006, after a bitter nomination fight.
Sexual Assault Allegations
When Kavanaugh was elected to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward with sexual assault allegations. Miss Ford testified that in 1982, Kavanaugh pinned her on a bed, drunkenly groped her, tried to remove her clothing, and held his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.
After these allegations were made public, New Yorker magazine reported that Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, spoke out that he exposed himself at a party when they were both first-year students. Julie Swetnick also spoke out, stating that throughout college she observed Kavanaugh drinking excessively at house parties and engaging “in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls.” She claimed Kavanaugh and others would get girls inebriated so they could be “gang raped” in side rooms at house parties by a “train” of numerous boys. “I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room. These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh.” She added that in 1982, she was a victim of a “gang rape” at which Kavanaugh was present. Kavanaugh denied that any of these events ever took place. “The truth is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone, in high school or otherwise,” he said. However, these allegations led to much controversy regarding his nomination.
Brett Kavanaugh on Abortion
Kavanaugh’s views on abortion are somewhat hard to determine. On one hand, he stated in his first round of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he views Roe v. Wade as “important precedent of the Supreme Court” that has been “reaffirmed many times.” On the other hand, he also defended a dissenting opinion he wrote last year when the full DC Circuit allowed a 17-year-old to end her pregnancy over objections from the Trump administration.
His dissent stated that the Supreme Court has held that “the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion.” He also wrote that the Supreme court has “held that the government may further those interests so long as it does not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”
Overall, consensus seems to be that Kavanaugh would permit the government to more strictly regulate abortion, for example, with additional requirements that could delay the procedure or stiffer rules for doctors who would perform the procedures.
Brett Kavanaugh on Executive Branch Authority
Given the current scrutiny that Trump is under, and the many speculations that a subpoena or even impeachment could be looming, Kavanaugh’s views on executive powers or protections came into question. When Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California asked Kavanaugh if a sitting president could be compelled to respond to a subpoena, he declined to offer his views, stating “I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question.”
However, in a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, Kavanaugh stated that “Congress might consider a law exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.” In the same article, however, he noted, “If the President does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available.”
Brett Kavanaugh on Religious Liberty
During his hearings, Kavanaugh stated, “it’s important to recognize that the First Amendment to the Constitution, as well as many statutes, of course, protect religious liberty in the United States… and as I’ve said in some of my opinions, we are all equally American no matter what religion we are or no religion at all—and that means religious speakers and religious people have a right to their place in the public square.”
Kavanaugh dissented in the 2015 case of Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, when the DC Circuit declined a full court review of a religious group’s objection to the process for employers seeking to opt out of the mandate to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives. Priests for Life had challenged the process for certifying eligibility for exemptions, contending the paperwork involved burdened religious rights. Kavanaugh agreed, saying, “To plaintiffs, the act of submitting this form would, in their religious judgment, impermissibly facilitate delivery of contraceptive and abortifacient coverage.”
Brett Kavanaugh on the Second Amendment
In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a majority opinion of the DC Circuit that upheld a ban that applied to semiautomatic rifles in the District of Columbia, writing that the Supreme Court had previously “held that handguns—the vast majority of which today are semiautomatic—are constitutionally protected because they have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens.”
When pressed on his dissent during his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh stated, “I had to follow precedent. Semiautomatic rifles are widely possessed in the United States… so that seemed to fit common use in not being a dangerous and unusual weapon. That was the basis of my dissent.”
Brett Kavanaugh on Net Neutrality
In a 2017 dissent, Kavanaugh stated that he believed that Obama-era net neutrality regulations were “unlawful” and that the policy violated the First Amendment. Kavanaugh wrote that the regulation was consequential and “transforms the Internet.” But he said the rule “impermissibly infringes on the Internet service providers’ editorial discretion,” and he suggested the FCC had overreached in issuing the regulation, and that “Congress did not clearly authorize the FCC to issue the net neutrality rule.”
Brett Kavanaugh on Education
Brett Kavanaugh is strongly in favor of Betsy DeVos’s agenda to privatize public schools with vouchers. If appointed to the Supreme Court, we can expect he will rule in favor of a constitutional right for a vast expansion of vouchers nationwide.
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