Brett Kavanaugh is President Donald Trump’s choice to take the retiring Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court. He is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was Staff Secretary in the Executive Office of the President of the United States under President George W. Bush.
A protégé of Kenneth Starr, Kavanaugh played a lead role in drafting the Starr report, which urged the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh led the investigation into the suicide of Clinton aide Vincent Foster. After the 2000 U.S. presidential election, in which Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush campaign in the Florida recount, Kavanaugh joined Bush’s staff, where he led the Administration’s effort to identify and confirm judicial nominees.
Kavanaugh was nominated to the D.C. Appeals Court by Bush in 2003. His confirmation hearings were contentious and stalled for three years over charges of partisanship. Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed in May 2006 after a series of negotiations between Democratic and Republican senators.
He was confirmed by the Senate for the U.S. Court of Appeals by a vote of 57-36, on May 26, 2006.
His mother was also a judge. Martha Kavanaugh served as an Associate Judge in the Montgomery County Circuit Court, 6th Judicial Circuit from 1995 to June 2, 2001. Before that, she served an an Associate Judge in the District Court of Maryland, District 6 in Montgomery County from 1993-95.
Kavanaugh is expected to be strongly pro-life, but he is also known to be even handed and considerate. This causes concern on both sides of the debate.
In picking the 53-year-old Kavanaugh, Trump aimed to entrench conservative control of the court for years to come with his second lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest judicial body in his first 18 months as president.
The nominee has amassed a solidly conservative judicial record since 2006 on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the same court where three current justices including Chief Justice John Roberts previously served. Some conservative activists have questioned whether he would rule sufficiently aggressively as a justice.
Kavanaugh potentially could serve on the high court for decades. Trump’s other leading candidates for the post were fellow federal appellate judges Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett.
Kavanaugh served as a senior White House official under Republican former President George W. Bush before Bush picked nominated him to the appeals court in 2003. But some Democrats accused him of excessive partisanship and it took three years before the Senate eventually voted to confirm him.
Kavanaugh worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose investigation of Clinton helped spur an effort by congressional Republicans in 1998 and 1999 to impeach the Democratic president and remove him from office. Kavanaugh in 2009 changed his tune on the Starr probe, arguing that presidents should be free from civil lawsuits, criminal prosecutions and investigations while in office.
The case in question is called Garza v. Hargan. An undocumented immigrant in federal custody wanted to have an abortion, and the case revolved around whether the government should allow her to do so. The D.C. Circuit ultimately ruled that the Trump administration should allow the woman to have an abortion. You can read the decisions in the Garza v. Hargan case here.
Kavanaugh dissented from that majority opinion. However, “unlike another conservative judge,” Kavanaugh “did not directly challenge her right to have an abortion under certain circumstances,” New York Magazine reported. That upsets conservatives, but Roe supporters aren’t happy, either, because Kavanaugh didn’t side with the majority ruling the teen should get the abortion.
“Brett Kavanaugh was all in to block a young, undocumented woman from accessing abortion and would happily overturn #RoevWade,” NARAL, which supports Roe, wrote on Twitter.
Conservative concern about Kavanaugh on abortion mirrors conservative concern about Kavanaugh on Obamacare; in both cases, Kavanaugh dissented, but he was not strong enough in his dissent in doing so for some conservatives. SCOTUS blog explained, “Kavanaugh noted that the government had conceded the teen’s right to an abortion. He went on to assert that delaying the procedure while the government sought a sponsor was permissible under the Supreme Court’s precedent because it did not impose an undue burden on that right.”
The basic concern that some conservatives have raised: They think that Kavanaugh did not take a strong enough position on the case. “This case exemplifies why Kavanaugh is not the best available Supreme Court prospect,” Philip Jauregui of the Judicial Action Group wrote to other conservatives in a memo, according to Politico.
Although Jauregui said Kavanaugh was “certainly not the worst judge” in the case, he raised concern that, in his view, Kavanaugh might not be “as constitutionally principled” as others.
In the case, Kavanaugh wrote, “The Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion,” adding that the majority’s stance was a”radical extension of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence.”