Last night, in primetime, President Trump announced 53-year-old Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. The president said he looked for a judge who would be able to set aside their political views and "apply the Constitution as written."
The president listed several of Kavanaugh's credentials. He is a graduate of Yale, which, if he is confirmed, would maintain the Court's unanimous Ivy League makeup. The president described him as a "judge's judge" who has authored over 300 opinions over the last 12 years as a judge on the US Court of Appeals DC Circuit. Kavanaugh currently teaches at Harvard Law School where he was hired by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan when she was Dean there.
Kavanaugh was a law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1993, at the same time as Neil Gorsuch. He later worked for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr during the Clinton-Whitewater investigation. He also worked as Counsel in the George W. Bush White House, eventually becoming Staff Secretary to the President.
He is active in his Catholic church community, volunteering in soup kitchens, tutoring students at elementary schools, and coaching his daughters' basketball teams. The players call him, "Coach K." No word yet on whether Justice Ginsburg will call him "Coach K," or "whippersnapper."
Trump said, "No one in America is more qualified for this position and no one is more deserving."
Kavanaugh seems to tick most of the right boxes.
So, those are the positives. Kavanaugh seems to tick most of the right boxes. It definitely seems like Trump was convinced to go with a very "confirmable" nominee, rather that someone like Amy Coney Barrett, who many conservatives were rooting for, but who probably would have invited a messier Senate confirmation battle.
But some conservatives are nervous about Kavanaugh because of a 2011 opinion he wrote when the DC Circuit heard a case considering the constitutionality of Obamacare. In that opinion, he ended up supporting the law's individual mandate, and that opinion directly influenced John Roberts' fateful Supreme Court decision on Obamacare.
The other potential red flag for Kavanaugh's confirmation is a 2009 article he wrote for the Minnesota Law Review in which he said he believes presidents should not be subject to civil lawsuits or criminal investigations while in office because they were "time-consuming and distracting." Democrats will grill Kavanaugh for a week on that alone.
Judge Kavanaugh was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation before stepping to the podium to accept the President's nomination, with Kavanaugh's wife, Ashley, and their two daughters by his side. He gave a touching tribute to his parents who were in the audience and ended by describing his judicial philosophy:
A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.
That is encouraging to hear, but conservatives who believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights have been burned plenty of times before by supposedly conservative justices. The proof will be in the pudding.