Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

Kavanaugh’s Nomination


On President Bush’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit: Look for the Senate Judiciary Committee to report the nomination favorably to the Senate floor next Thursday, May 4, and for Senate floor debate on the nomination to begin the week of May 15, with a final confirmation vote that week or the following week.

The same usual suspects who attacked the nominations of John Roberts and Sam Alito to the Supreme Court are attacking Kavanaugh, and their attacks are equally insubstantial. Kavanaugh’s attackers point to his relative youth (he is 41) and concomitant experience. But there have been lots of courts of appeals judges younger than Kavanaugh (including Harry Edwards, whom Carter appointed to the D.C. Circuit when Edwards was 39), and Kavanaugh has a remarkable breadth of experience that few older judges, at the time of their appointments, could match: Among other things, he’s been a Supreme Court clerk, devoted more than 10 years to federal-government service, served in a senior position in the executive branch, been a partner in a major national law firm, and argued cases in the Supreme Court and court of appeals. In his three successive ratings by the ABA Committee on the Federal Judiciary (two ratings of “well qualified” and one of “qualified”), all of the 42 different members that have rated Kavanaugh (including some diehard lefties) have rated him “well qualified” or “qualified”.

Kavanaugh’s attackers also impute to him extraordinary nefarious influence in the various jobs he has had, including for former independent counsel Ken Starr and President Bush. Let’s set aside the curious inconsistency in how one supposedly so inexperienced could have such influence. Beyond the baseless innuendo, there is nothing to the charges. The so-called Leadership Conference on Civil Rights contends, for example, that “Kavanaugh played an important role in the selection of most of President Bush’s more controversial [judicial] nominees” and that he “sought vigorously to expand presidential secrecy.” But these contentions mean nothing more than that Kavanaugh worked effectively on judicial nominations and executive privilege when serving in the White House counsel’s office. As the numerous quotations in the White House talking points establish, Kavanaugh has earned the admiration of people across the political spectrum who have worked with him.

It’s difficult to see how Democrats might think that they can wage an honest battle against Kavanaugh’s nomination. So we may be on the verge of another smear campaign by the Left. Senate Republicans can and should emerge both victorious and strengthened from this fight.


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