An appellate judgeship in the federal system, although a fairly high position in the legal field, is usually not a socially known figure. But when you are picked for promotion to the Supreme Court, then most anybody who cares to pay some attention to the news will know something about you. The US Supreme Court is made up of nine justices and they hold lifetime tenures. Brett Kavanaugh, an appellate court judge, was just nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice by Donald Trump. He’s in his fifties. If he lives to be a hundred years old, he could be on the high court for forty-some years, deciding with eight colleagues presumably the most important cases of this country. That is why people care about who sits up there. And they should.
As important as the job of a justice is, the nomination and confirmation process usually goes fairly quickly and smoothly. The president makes the nomination, supposedly after a thorough checking of the nominee’s background. Then it goes to the Senate. Either he or she gets confirmed or rejected. If the confirmation goes through, he or she gets the hugely prestigious job for life. If the candidate is rejected, the president nominates another candidate and the process starts all over again.
What makes Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination “unique”is that there seems to be no evidence of a thorough background check by the White House. The normal procedure is that the FBI would be delegated that duty. It is not clear that the FBI was ever involved in the vetting of this candidate. When three women, or possibly four, came out to accuse the candidate of sexual assaults, albeit when Kavanaugh was in his teens and twenties, both the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to order the FBI to look into the allegations. Their excuses range from 1) Judge Kavanaugh is a superb candidate, 2) it was so long ago, 3) the FBI has no time for this type of investigation, 4) the accuser is all mixed up, to 5) it’s a smear campaign by the Democrats, and more. Despite all these absurd pretexts, the Republicans seem to be saying: We have a Republican in the White House. We have a majority in the Senate. With Kavanaugh’s appointment, we’ll have a majority in the Supreme Court too. Eat your heart out, America!
The irony is not lost when Kavanaugh himself appeared on TV and said that he wanted the process to be fair to both the first accuser Christine Blasey Ford and him, and he wanted his name cleared by the Senate hearings. He is an appellate judge. He should know something about fair process and evidentiary support. Why wouldn’t he volunteer to have the FBI look into the allegations? He evaded that question during today’s Senate hearing. The Chair of the Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley interrupted and said that it was not up to Kavanaugh to make that decision. Grassley did not say he was going to order it.
To add myth to mystery, the Senate Judiciary Committee said that their staff interviewed two men claiming they, not Kavanaugh, assaulted Ford. No other details were given. Neither was there any indication that the FBI was investigating.
It will be interesting to see how this nomination battle plays out. I think there is a 50/50 chance that the Republicans may end up eating their own crow when it’s all over. We’ll see.
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