Ethics complaints against Kavanaugh dismissed because they don't apply to Supreme Court justices

A full panel of appeals court judges in Colorado on Tuesday dismissed the complaints of judicial misconduct that were filed earlier this year against Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court to hear landmark abortion case this week Roe redux: Is 'viability' still viable as a constitutional doctrine? Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks MORE following his confirmation hearings.

An eight-judge panel on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the 83 complaints that were filed in the D.C. Circuit and Colorado-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals raised “serious” allegations, but said Kavanaugh can't be penalized.


The complaints together allege Kavanaugh violated the code of conduct for federal judges, but the court said since he has now been elevated to the Supreme Court the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act no longer applies to him.

The law only covers circuit, district, bankruptcy and magistrate judges.

“Neither the act nor the rules apply to justices of the United States Supreme Court,” Chief Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in the court’s 10-page ruling.

The panel of judges released the complaints made against Kavanaugh, though the names and personal information of those who filed them are redacted. 

Many of the allegations are centered on Kavanaugh’s behavior during his Sept. 27 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he forcefully denied allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him by Christine Blasey Ford.

One complaint states that Kavanaugh "repeatedly lost his temper during questioning." Another complaint highlighted Kavanaugh’s comments toward committee Democrats, who the judge accused of carrying out an “orchestrated political hit.” Others asserted that Kavanaugh made “false or misleading” statements during his testimony about his drinking habits and the allegations themselves.

The complaints, which Tymkovich said came from doctors, lawyers, professors and concerned citizens, relate to comments Kavanaugh made over the course of his confirmation hearings in September. 

The former D.C. Circuit Court judge first appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee early in the month, and returned on Sept. 27 to testify about sexual misconduct allegations.

“The allegations contained in the complaint are serious, but the Judicial Council is obligated to adhere to the Act,” Tymkovich said. “Lacking statutory authority to do anything more, the complaints must be dismissed because an intervening event — Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court –has made the complaints not longer appropriate for consideration under the act.”

The complaints, originally filed in Sept. 20 in the D.C. Circuit, but the court’s Judicial Council asked Chief Justice John Roberts on the Supreme Court to transferred them to another court.

The Senate voted in October, 50-48, to confirm Kavanaugh following a bitter confirmation battle. He took his seat on the court and began hearing cases days later.

Ford accused Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed and groping her during party when the two were in high school, and Deborah Ramirez later came forward to allege Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a party when the two were in college.

Kavanaugh vehemently denied the allegations, and he and Republican lawmakers labeled them part of a "smear" campaign against the judge.

Fix the Court, a nonprofit working to make the court more transparent, called the court’s decision “wholly unsatisfactory” for anyone who was looking for moral leadership from America’s top jurists.

“That Chief Justice Roberts sent the complaints to a circuit led by a judge Kavanaugh vetted while working in the Bush White House made little sense,” Gabe Roth, the group’s executive director said in a statement.

“That the identity of the panel ruling on the complaint was not made public until its order was released is sadly the type of opacity one has come to expect from the third branch.”

Roth said Tuesday ruling underscores the need for the Supreme Court to adopt its own code of conduct or for Congress to write one if the justices cannot be bothered.

— Updated at 4:58 p.m.