By State Representative, Leon D. Young
For many Americans, the name Brett Kavanaugh was a non-starter in most circles, but that has all changed. Last Monday, Donald Trump nominated this relatively-obscure federal appellate judge to the Supreme Court for rather obvious reasons. During his 12 years on the bench in Washington, D.C., Judge Kavanaugh has endorsed some robust views of the powers of the president, and has consistently sided with arguments in favor of broad executive authority.
Here are some other important things to know about this Supreme Court nominee (Brett Kavanaugh):
• He strongly believes in the separation of powers. Kavanaugh is “an unrelenting, unapologetic defender of presidential power” who believes courts can and should actively seek to rein in “large swaths of the current administrative state.”
• He served under George W. Bush. His views of presidential power were shaped in part by the years he worked as a close aide to George W. Bush, including two years in the White House Counsel’s Office and three years as staff secretary. It’s important to note that Kavanaugh is a proponent of “originalism,” the practice of interpreting the Constitution and statutes by looking at the original meaning and text.
• Leans right on guns and abortion. Kavanaugh objected to a 2011 ruling that upheld Washington’s ban on semiautomatic rifles. In his lengthy dissent from two other judges nominated by Republican presidents, Kavanaugh pointed to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision declaring an individual right to gun ownership apart from military service. While he has not expressed outright opposition to Roe v. Wade, last year he dissented in a ruling that said an undocumented immigrant teenager in detention was entitled to seek an abortion. In his dissent, Kavanaugh wrote the Supreme Court held that “the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion.”
• He worked on the Investigation that led to President Clinton’s impeachment. Kavanaugh is no novice when it comes to partisan politics. He co-wrote independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s report in the 1990’s that laid out the legal framework supporting Clinton’s impeachment for his affair with then White House Monica Lewinsky. Clinton could have been impeached for misleading the public and lying to staff members. Judge Kavanaugh has argued that presidents should not be distracted while in office by civil lawsuits or criminal investigations, which would ill serve the public interest.
• He’s no friend of the environment. As a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge he repeatedly pounded the Obama administration in a series of legal opinions rebuffing some of its most high-profile air pollution rules. This bring us to the seminal question at hand: Who is Brett Kavanaugh and what impact he might ultimately have on the court? In my opinion, Kavanaugh is basically a Republican operative-turned-federal judge who now may be given the opportunity to grease the skids for Trump’s political agenda on the high court.