SCOTUS Nominee Kavanaugh Does Not Vote to Avoid ‘Semblance of Partisanship’

Emilie Cochran | August 14, 2018 | 12:46pm EDT
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SCOTUS nominee Brett
Kavanaugh. (YouTube)

( -- Judges should be unbiased like umpires, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said in a speech to Catholic University Law School in June 2016.

Kavanaugh apparently takes that view very seriously as he does not vote in elections to, as he said, “avoid any semblance of partisanship.”

In that June 22, 2016 speech, Kavanaugh explained how a good judge is like an umpire at a sporting event. 

The first way is that a judge cannot act as a partisan, said Kavanaugh. Specifically, federal judges must get rid of any prior “political allegiances.” He said this lack of partisanship is the “most fundamental thing” for a judge.

“When Justice John Harlan was on the Supreme Court, he reportedly chose not to vote” in elections, said Kavnaugh. “I am no Justice Harlan, I will be the first to emphasize, but after a short time as a judge, I ultimately chose to follow his lead about voting.”

Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C.  (YouTube)

While many Supreme Court justices come from political backgrounds, such as Justice Elena Kagan and Chief Justice John Roberts, judges must “check any prior political allegiances at the door,” said Kavanaugh.

The D.C.-Maryland native also said it is important for judges to keep an open mind and decide cases based on law, precedent, and facts rather than preconceived notions. He added that it is important for judges to keep learning about the law because they “are not the font of all wisdom.”

It is also necessary for judges to be willing to change their mind, which some may say is weak, but Kavanaugh said it “requires strength, not weakness, to be able to say you were wrong before.”

Along the same lines of strength, judges must “possess some backbone,” particularly when there is a tough call to make, he said.

“As a judge, you must, when appropriate, stand up to the political branches and say some action is unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful,” said Kavanaugh. “Whether it was Marbury, or Youngstown, or Brown, or Nixon, some of the greatest moments in American judicial history have been when judges stood up to the other branches, were not cowed, and enforced the law.”

Kavanaugh stressed the importance of judges understanding their “proper role in the game” rather than remaking the laws based on the judge’s personal policy views.

President Donald Trump and his SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  (YouTube)

“At his confirmation hearing, Chief Justice Roberts memorably referred to being a modest judge,” said Kavanaugh. “What does this mean? We must recognize that we do not make the policy ourselves. It is not our job to make the policy choices that belong to the political branches.”

Following established rules, principles and law, as well as day-to-day consistency, are characteristics of a good umpire and a good judge, he said. Regardless of the people or organizations on each side of the argument, judges must consistently follow the same priciples and precedents, he added.

“Following established rules includes stare decisis: we follow the cases that have been decided, said the nominee. “We operate in a system built on Supreme Court precedent.”

Brett Kavanaugh, currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Donald J. Trump on July 9. Senate confirmation hearings on Kavanaugh reportedly will begin the first week in September.

Kavanaugh, 53, is married to Ashley Estes and they have two children.

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