Who is Trump’s Pick for the Next Supreme Court Justice?

This past Monday night, President Trump announced his choice of Brett Kavanaugh as his nomination for the Supreme Court. This nomination follows the retirement announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy by 12 days. Kavanaugh is only 53 years old which, if confirmed by the Senate, would make him one of the youngest justices on the Supreme Court.

A senior White House official told the Associated Press that the decision was made on Sunday evening. According to the official, the decision was based on Kavanaugh being cited by other courts as a body of the philosophy of law and a judge whom other judges read. The other top contenders who were considered for the nomination include Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett and Thomas Hardiman.

Courtesy: APNews

So, who exactly is Brett Kavanaugh?

Brett Kavanaugh is a Washington, D.C. native who attended Yale for both his undergraduate career and law school. Kavanaugh began his career in politics by serving as a law clerk for the retiring Justice Kennedy from 1993 to 1994. Following this, in the latter half of the 90’s, he was a key aide to Kenneth Starr during Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton. During this time, Kavanaugh acted as a contributing author of the Starr Report and urged the House to impeach President Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. During the election recount in 2000, he worked on behalf of George W. Bush’s campaign. Following this election, he then served in the White House for President Bush, first serving in the White House counsel's office and then later as staff secretary. In 2006, Kavanaugh took on the position he currently holds as a judge for the D.C. circuit of the Federal Court of Appeals following a 3-year long nomination when Democrats argued he was too partisan for the position.

Courtesy: NPR

Kavanaugh is viewed by many as a staunch conservative. This political leaning is causing many Democrats to be nervous due to the retiring Justice Kennedy having been a swing vote in most Supreme Court decisions. At the White House on Monday night, Kavanaugh pledged to preserve the Constitution, stating that “a judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret the Constitution as written.”

In previous speeches, Kavanaugh has spoken about the importance of not being partisan when one becomes a judge. However, this has not stopped many people from believing that if he is confirmed by the Senate, he will lead to the Supreme Court leaning right on topics of abortion, gun rights, affirmative action, religious liberty and environmental action – especially on the topics of abortion and gay rights, Kavanaugh is expected to be less receptive than Justice Kennedy had previously been. However, during his confirmation hearing for the D.C. Appellate Court in 2006, Kavanaugh did say that he would continue to follow the ruling of Roe v. Wade faithfully, calling it “a binding precedent of the court.” This statement has caused many conservatives to view Kavanaugh as not being tough enough on abortion while doing nothing to deter the belief of Democrats that he is hard on abortion.

Additionally, Kavanaugh is a supporter of broader gun rights and believes that bans on semi-automatic rifles are unconstitutional, due to these weapons being in common use across the United States. The Supreme Court has refused to hear 2nd Amendment challenges to state laws or local ordinances restricting sales of semiautomatic weapons since 2008, when the Court established the 2nd Amendment right to have a gun in one’s home. This continued refusal makes it appear unlikely that Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will have any say on gun laws any time soon. However, those currently pushing for stricter gun laws and stricter gun regulations remain nervous about the possibility of his position.

Kavanaugh currently favors the exemption of presidents from facing both civil suits and criminal investigations including indictment while in office – this is a point that has drawn attention from both Conservatives and Democrats. This belief trails a change in mind that Kavanaugh had after his role in the Starr investigation of President Clinton, when he began to view the presidential investigations as harmful to the country. He now views investigations of the President as attempts to distract the public from the state’s larger issues.

Courtesy: The Los Angeles Times

Kavanaugh is expected to immediately begin visiting Capitol Hill to meet with senators. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rule change last year during the Senate Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Supreme Court nomination no longer needs 60 votes in order to advance, but instead only a simple majority of votes. McConnell has already announced that he is planning to hold a confirmation vote for Kavanaugh before this upcoming fall midterm election.