On Monday night, President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy’s former law clerk, Brett Kavanaugh, to replace him on the Supreme Court.
“He is a brilliant jurist with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time,” Trump said.
The 53-year-old Kavanaugh has spent the past 12 years as a federal judge on the nation’s second most powerful court — the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — where he authored more than 300 opinions.
The president touted Kavanaugh’s record on the court, noting the Supreme Court has adopted more than a dozen of his rulings as the law of the land.
Before President George W. Bush appointed Kavanaugh to the appeals court in 2006, he served for five years in the White House counsel’s office. Kavanaugh, who clerked for Kennedy in 1993, was a favorite among Trump’s list of conservatives contenders.
Adam Feldman, author and creator of the Supreme Court blog Empirical SCOTUS, wrote in December that Kavanaugh has written opinions almost entirely in favor of big businesses and employers in employment disputes, and against defendants in criminal cases.
Civil rights leaders were quick to vehemently oppose his nomination, arguing Kavanaugh will be a vote to gut ObamaCare and Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
In 2016, he issued a majority ruling that found the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be unconstitutional.
Republicans have long been fighting to abolish the agency. While the court did not halt the agency's operations, it gave the president the ability to supervise, direct and fire the agency's director at will.
The following year, Kavanaugh dissented from the court’s decision to allow an undocumented immigrant teenager in federal custody to get an abortion.
In that ruling, he said the majority was creating a "new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand, barring any government efforts to expeditiously transfer the minors to their immigration sponsors before they make that momentous life decision.”
Kavanaugh is also known for dissenting from the court’s decision in 2015 in Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services not to rehear a challenge to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate.
In that dissent, Kavanaugh wrote that “the regulations substantially burden the religious organizations’ exercise of religion because the regulations require the organizations to take an action contrary to their sincere religious beliefs (submitting the form) or else pay significant monetary penalties.”
A graduate of Yale Law School, Kavanaugh’s Ivy league ties match those of his potential future colleagues.
In accepting the nomination Monday night, the only child credited his parents for his work ethic and moral code, particularly his mom, who was a teacher turned lawyer.
“In the 1960s and '70s she taught history at two largely African-American public high schools in Washington, D.C. … Her example taught me the importance of equality for all Americans,” he said.
“My mom was a trail-blazer. When I was 10, she went to law school and became a prosecutor. My introduction to the law came at our dinner table when she practiced her closing arguments," he said. "Her trademark line was ‘Use your common sense. What rings true; what rings false.’ That’s good advice for a juror and a son.”
But in additon to abortion and health care, liberal groups fear Kavanaugh's record shows he believes presidents are above the law.
Alliance for Justice pointed to the Minnesota Law Review article he wrote in 2009 in which he argued that criminal investigations against the president should be deferred while they are in office.
“The indictment and trial of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas,” he wrote. “Such an outcome would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.”
In a call with reporters Monday night, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the vacancy should remain open until special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE completes his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Ifill said Kavanaugh’s writing suggest he thinks the president should be immune from an indictment and criminal prosecution.
“The taint surrounding this selection could not be more noxious,” she said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHow Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections The Armageddon elections to come MORE (R-Ky.) said the Senate will vote this fall to confirm Kennedy’s successor ahead of the midterm elections.
"He has won the respect of his peers and is highly regarded throughout the legal community. And his judicial record demonstrates a firm understanding of the role of a judge in our Republic: Setting aside personal views and political preferences in order to interpret our laws as they are written," McConnell said in a statement.
The confirmation process is sure to be a bitter fight.