The Corner

Law & the Courts

Brett Kavanaugh Not Quite as ‘Evil’ as Promised

Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh (Jim Young/Reuters)

Exactly one year ago today, Senator Cory Booker implied that failing to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination would be “evil.” (Booker was speaking only of Kavanaugh’s jurisprudence, as the allegations from Christine Ford had not yet become public.) Well, the recently concluded Supreme Court term gave us a chance to find out what evil looks like in action, and it turns out that Lucifer-in-a-black-robe had a voting record that could hardly be described as extreme. In fact, by some measures he was a moderate.

Kavanaugh voted with the majority 89 percent of the time, which was the highest rate of any justice, surpassing even the 85 percent achieved by Chief Justice John Roberts. Kavanaugh and Roberts formed the second-most-agreeable pair of justices (after Sotomayor and Ginsburg), voting together 92 percent of the time. Furthermore, Kavanaugh was just as likely to vote with liberals Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer as he was with fellow Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch.

On a more sophisticated level, “Martin-Quinn” scores purport to locate each justice on a scale based on the voting coalitions that form across different Supreme Court cases. Although no assumptions about ideology are built into the scores, the familiar left-right divide still emerges. Here is how the justices rank by Martin-Quinn scores from Kavanaugh’s first term, in ascending order (essentially left to right): Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Kagan, Breyer, Kavanaugh, Roberts, Gorsuch, Alito, Thomas. Note that Kavanaugh is the median justice by this metric, which is a surprise given Roberts’ reputation as the swing vote.

To be fair, the above statistics probably overstate Kavanaugh’s moderation. Many Supreme Court cases are unanimous, and many others involve no obvious political considerations. Even the Martin-Quinn scores make no attempt to distinguish especially important or ideological cases. When we limit the analysis to 5-4 cases that split along ideological lines, Kavanaugh appears to be more of a traditional conservative, as he voted with the conservative justices in 13 out of 14 such cases. Nevertheless, Kavanaugh has hardly been an outlier or a rabble-rouser on the Court. It will be interesting to see where he fits into the conservative bloc over the long term.

Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

Most Popular

Media

Martha McSally’s Blasphemy

As I note in my New York Post piece today, I don’t believe that Martha McSally, who is serving her first term in the Senate after being appointed to take John McCain’s seat, is going to be helped much by accusing CNN’s Manu Raju of being a “hack.” Attacking the press might be an effective way to excite ... Read More
Media

Martha McSally’s Blasphemy

As I note in my New York Post piece today, I don’t believe that Martha McSally, who is serving her first term in the Senate after being appointed to take John McCain’s seat, is going to be helped much by accusing CNN’s Manu Raju of being a “hack.” Attacking the press might be an effective way to excite ... Read More

People Make New Orleans

I had my first taste of southern hospitality the day I moved to New York. A young woman from New Orleans, whom I had met only briefly over Skype (she had advertised a room in the Bronx, though I preferred a room in Manhattan), had asked if anyone would be picking me up from the airport. No, I told her. I didn’t ... Read More

People Make New Orleans

I had my first taste of southern hospitality the day I moved to New York. A young woman from New Orleans, whom I had met only briefly over Skype (she had advertised a room in the Bronx, though I preferred a room in Manhattan), had asked if anyone would be picking me up from the airport. No, I told her. I didn’t ... Read More
Elections

Lying Liz

Ever since she began explaining how her Medicare for all plan would be funded, and how she would pass it, Elizabeth Warren has been sinking. Ahead of last week’s debate, her camp leaked a story that her friend Bernie Sanders met with her in 2018 to discuss plans for 2020, and that at this meeting, Sanders had ... Read More
Elections

Lying Liz

Ever since she began explaining how her Medicare for all plan would be funded, and how she would pass it, Elizabeth Warren has been sinking. Ahead of last week’s debate, her camp leaked a story that her friend Bernie Sanders met with her in 2018 to discuss plans for 2020, and that at this meeting, Sanders had ... Read More
Health Care

‘Reconsidering Fetal Pain’

Two researchers with “divergent views regarding the morality of abortion” have published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics concluding that unborn human beings likely are able to feel pain at an earlier point than previous research has suggested. The authors state that they “came together to write ... Read More
Health Care

‘Reconsidering Fetal Pain’

Two researchers with “divergent views regarding the morality of abortion” have published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics concluding that unborn human beings likely are able to feel pain at an earlier point than previous research has suggested. The authors state that they “came together to write ... Read More