What's the Deal with Brett Kavanaugh: A Quick Guide

If you’ve got any ear at all for the news, or have been on Twitter or Facebook in the past few weeks, you know that President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the vacancy on the Supreme Court, left recently by the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

You also know that this confirmation process has been a total hot mess, but you may not be sure of where it started, or everything that’s going on.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the Kavanaugh case, here’s a quick rundown of what’s been happening, kept as nonpartisan as humanly possible. 

After the President of the United States nominates a judge for a seat on the Supreme Court, the nominee is subjected to what is probably the world’s most stressful job interview, conducted by a panel from the Senate. These Judiciary Committees in the past twenty or so years have been increasingly politically-motivated, since Supreme Court Justices are usually for life and can change the scope and interpretation of United States laws completely. These decisions can only be reversed by another ruling by a future Supreme Court.

Since Anthony Kennedy was what’s known as a “swing” voter – he can lean either liberal or conservative in his votes, breaking the ties between the other 8 justices on the Court – a lot of people have been rightfully concerned about who would replace him. Brett Kavanaugh, who actually served as judicial clerk for Anthony Kennedy, leans more to the right, and Democrats are worried he might reverse Roe v. Wade, which granted women the right to abortion.

Brett Kavanaugh was a White House attorney during the Bush administration (younger, not older). Already protested because of the aforementioned Roe v. Wade concerns, Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings were interrupted as well by Democratic senators who accused him of withholding documents from his time as a White House attorney, as well as several counts of lying under oath before the Senate (not quite perjury, for you Law and Order fans, but pretty much). You can read more details about what exactly he may or may not have lied about here and here (both of these link to Democrat news sites, as it’s Democrats raising these accusations.)

Then Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, psychologist and professor of statistics who goes by Dr. Blasey in her professional life, came forward on September 16th and alleged that while they were in high school together, Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. Her actions have generated a nationwide discussion, sparking the Twitter trend #WhyIDidntReport, which I recommend reading if you are curious as to why someone would not report sexual assault at the time of the incident.

Kavanaugh has denied this allegation. Mark Judge, a friend of his who Blasey claims was in the room at the time of this incident, has stated he does not remember anything happening at that time. 

Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, has stepped forward and alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party at Yale, his alma mater. Julie Swetnick has also come forward to state that Kavanaugh was involved in a number of parties during high school where he conspired with others to drug teenage girls and make them more susceptible to assault. Democrat Senators and Ford herself have called for an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, and Ford testified before the Senate on Thursday, September 27th. I highly encourage you to read the transcript of her testimony as well as Kavanaugh’s responses, no matter what party you belong to, as well as more articles about any one of the points I’ve raised. Don’t take any of what I say for granted – please research more and figure out where you stand for yourself. 

As of right now, on September 29th as I write this, the Senate has already voted 11-10 to continue with Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), a key swing senator, has stipulated that there needs to be at least one week before the actual confirmation vote in order to give the FBI time to investigate these claims against Kavanaugh. 

From the standpoint of someone who is a Legal Studies minor, I will say this: it is true that under the 5th and 14th Amendments, citizens who are accused of a crime have the right to due process. They have the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty. But we must also give victims and reporters of crimes trust and respect as well. It takes bravery to report a crime, especially one as personally traumatizing as sexual assault. If Kavanaugh is innocent, an FBI investigation will not hurt him but rather put some of these concerns to rest. The case has already turned into a “he-said-she-said” battle that has actually happened before in the Anita Hill case you can read about here in comparison with the Kavanaugh hearings. I was not personally expecting an FBI investigation to actually happen and I don't doubt the difficulty of establishing anything concretely more than 30 years after the fact, but I do think the investigation will at least help answer some of our questions. I will also say that no matter what you believe about Dr. Blasey’s allegations, she has been sent death threats as a result of her stepping forward, and I think we can all agree that is highly unnecessary for this situation. As the case continues to develop and as more sexual assault survivors weigh in with their experiences, we should be respectful of each other and at least grant one another the basic human decency of listening. This isn't a trial. This is a job interview to determine whether or not Brett Kavanaugh is who we want as a nation weighing in on the highest court in the land for presumably the rest of his life. 

Regardless of what you believe about Kavanaugh and regardless of who sits in Anthony Kennedy’s chair, the next appointed Supreme Court Justice is going to set the tone for legal issues for the grand majority of your lifetime, too.  

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