On Monday, President Trump nominated Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will succeed retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Kennedy, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, had long served as the pivotal swing vote on the court.
Kavanaugh, 53, is a conservative with deep ties to the Republican establishment. He resides in Washington’s Maryland suburbs and serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
• Before becoming a judge, Kavanaugh was a fast-rising Republican lawyer who first gained notice decades ago when he helped to investigate President Bill Clinton under independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.
• Kavanaugh worked in George W. Bush’s White House before moving to the federal bench. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the appeals court in 2003, but Democrats held up his confirmation for three years because of his work in the Bush White House and on the Starr report. He was confirmed in 2006 by a vote of 57 to 36.
• The Yale Law School graduate served as a clerk to Kennedy in the early 1990s alongside Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated for the Supreme Court last year.
• He grew up in Bethesda, Md., and attended Georgetown Preparatory School, the same Jesuit high school as Gorsuch. He is an observant Catholic, regularly attending church at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Northwest Washington with his wife and two daughters. He serves meals at a local Catholic Charities program.
On the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh has been a consistent conservative with rulings that often advance executive power and restrain the government bureaucracy. He is considered to the right of Kennedy.
• In a ruling later reversed by his colleagues, Kavanaugh declared unconstitutional the structure of a consumer watchdog agency, finding that it gives too much executive control to a “single unaccountable, unchecked director.”
• In a Second Amendment case, Kavanaugh said he would have struck down D.C.’s regulations banning certain semiautomatic long guns.
• A recent opinion on abortion has prompted criticism from some conservatives. Last fall, Kavanaugh ruled against an immigrant teenager in federal custody who sought to immediately terminate her pregnancy — but he did not go as far as another D.C. Circuit judge who said the teen had no constitutional right to an elective abortion.
After accepting Trump’s nomination, Kavanaugh spoke, describing his judicial philosophy as “straightforward.”
“A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law,” Kavanaugh said. “A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
He went on to share several factoids and stories that appeared designed to cast him as an ally of women in advance of a nomination battle expected to center in part on his views on abortion and contraception.
The Supreme Court nominee spoke at length about his two “spirited” daughters, whose basketball teams he has coached for the past seven years. He credited his wife, Ashley, whom he met when they both worked for Bush, for being a source of strength in the White House after the Sept. 11 attacks. He noted that a majority of his law clerks were women.
And Kavanaugh said he was first exposed to law by his mother, who practiced her closing arguments at the dinner table as a prosecutor before becoming a trial judge.
Republican leaders firmly believe that Kavanaugh could be instrumental in pitching the ideological makeup of the court to the right and leaving a conservative imprint on the law for a generation. They also see the coming confirmation fight as a chance to galvanize their voters ahead of this year’s midterm elections, where the GOP’s 51-seat Senate majority is at risk.
“I will lift heaven and Earth to see that he is confirmed,” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said.
Democrats are preparing for what they hope will be a prolonged showdown on Capitol Hill — determined to rally in defense of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights decision; LGBTQ rights; and same-sex marriage — all areas of the law that they fear could be ruptured by the court.
“I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska support abortion rights, and they will likely bear the brunt of Democratic pressure to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Murkowski has called Roe v. Wade a “significant factor” in her decision, though not the only one. Collins — the senator who appears most likely to cross party lines — has previously voted for President Obama’s two Supreme Court picks.
In a statement, Collins said “Kavanaugh has impressive credentials and extensive experience.”
“I will conduct a careful, thorough vetting of the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court, as I have done with the five previous Supreme Court Justices whom I have considered,” she continued. “I look forward to Judge Kavanaugh’s public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to questioning him in a meeting in my office.”
Murkowski’s statement mirrored her colleague’s.
“I intend to review Judge Kavanaugh’s decisions on the bench and writings off the bench, and pay careful attention to his responses to questions posed by my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Murkowski said.