By: Cavett Feazel
Following Justice Kennedy’s announcement on June 27, 2018, that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court at the conclusion of the 2017 term, President Trump and company began the replacement search. Having compiled a list of potential nominees during the 2016 presidential election, the President stated that it would be someone from that list. Brett Kavanaugh, a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was on that list and on July 9th was announced as the nominee.
Supreme Court confirmation hearings offer a rare chance for our lawmakers to question the country’s greatest legal minds on constitutional theory and legal analysis. While some insight is gleaned, the divisive nature of politics tends to obstruct any open discussion from the nominees. Of course, as now Justice Elena Kagan put it in 1995, confirmations hearings have become a “vapid and hollow charade.” The temperament and rhetoric surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination has been inimical and often puerile in fashion. This shouldn’t be surprising as appointment of the next Justice will not only shape the legal landscape for decades to come but is likely to sway the Court right of center, something Democrats fear will result in a reversal of the progressivism accomplished over the past few decades. This unruliness was demonstrated by the more than 200 arrests on Capitol Hill during the hearings.
To be clear, the uncouth nature of today’s confirmation hearings is not a partisan issue; it affects all citizens and demands a return to respect for the nomination process, courtesy to the other side of the aisle, and a restoration of principled and honest inquiry. The hearings of modern times have all but turned into political grandstanding. Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), both rumored frontrunners for the Democrat presidential candidacy, are two prime examples observed during these hearings.
Senator Harris asked Kavanaugh if he “ever discussed special counsel Mueller or his investigation with anyone,” or “anyone at Kasowitz Benson & Torres, the law firm founded by. . .President Trump’s personal lawyer?” On its face this is a valid question attempting to delve into whether Kavanaugh’s personal views on the Russian treasure hunt account for his nomination. However, the interaction between the Senator and Judge reveal that Harris’ intention wasn’t a sincere inquiry into the Judge’s qualifications or personal relationship with the President. Rather, her intention was political gain. When asked by the nominee for a roster of those who work at the law firm, Senator Harris replied, “I don’t think you need to know. I think you need to know who you talked with.” What a helpful retort. The Senator, fully aware that it’s precedent for nominees to not offer up their personal views in fear of being “borked,” a reference to Robert Bork’s failed nomination to the Court, continued to press the nominee on his personal views on whether certain cases were decided correctly so that she could later tweet about his refusal to answer, knowing full well no nominee, conservative or progressive, in that seat would oblige those questions.
Senator Booker’s show of theatrics is worthy of a Razzie from Rotten Tomatoes, although his supporters may believe an Oscar is in order. Either way, it’s clear he was using these hearings to drum up political support. During the hearings Senator Booker threatened to release Committee Confidential documents proclaiming himself Spartacus with a straight face. He went on to release the documents and proclaim to the press, “I broke the rules yesterday. . .whatever the consequences are, here I stand.” Unimpressive pomp. It’s unsurprising that Senator Booker used these hearings to bolster his political fame; remember that this is the same man who cried “tears of rage” over President Trump. At least Senator Harris displays some sincerity; Booker doesn’t even attempt to feign it.
After all is said and done, Judge Kavanaugh will occupy the chair four seats to the left of Chief Justice Roberts on Monday, October 1st when the Court’s 2018 term begins. Those who support a progressive judiciary may be mortified that President Trump will have placed two Justices on the Court before the halfway mark of his first term, but those who favor a more conservative approach to judicial interpretation are soaring with joy. Justice Gorsuch and soon-to-be Justice Kavanaugh will stand as President Trump’s most important act as the 45th President of the United States.