Monday, July 16, 2018
While I was out of town visiting family (and staying far away from computers) the country had some big appellate news! Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, giving President Trump his second Supreme Court nomination. One week ago today, President Trump announced that he was nominating D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy. Judge Kavanaugh, a former Kennedy clerk, has served on the D.C. Circuit for 12 years.
While I know that Judge Kavanaugh has lots of supporters, I was surprised by the pick for two main reasons. First, Judge Kavanaugh is very connected to the Bush II administration, having served as White House Staff Secretary. His wife also worked in the Bush administration. Second, and relatedly, Judge Kavanaugh's long time service in D.C. seems to connect him to the "swamp" that President Trump disavows. However, those two issues didn't seem to bother the President, and Judge Kavanaugh got the nod over other potential front runners including Judge Hardiman, Judge Barrett, and Judge Kethledge.
It hasn't taken long for the battle lines to be drawn in the Senate. My email has been flooded with information and stories about Judge Kavanaugh. His detractors seem to focus on hot button social issues and whether Judge Kavanaugh will be too deferential to the president. His supporters point to his long, respected record on the D.C. Circuit and the praise that he has received from his law clerks and others. It remains to be seen whether Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed. I have heard some speculation that he could have trouble with some of the more moderate Republicans (or perhaps with Sen. Rand Paul). However, there are a lot of Senators from "red" states who are up for reelection. They might feel pressure to support the President's pick.
Apart from the politics of the Kavanaugh nomination, I am struck by how much the Supreme Court has changed in the last 13 years. When I graduated from law school in 2005, the Court had not changed in composition in over 10 years. In the 13 years since I graduated, we have seen five new justices (and that number will be six if President Trump's pick is confirmed). New justices mean a younger court too! The institution has changed some too, with new required e-filing. Perhaps we will even see cameras in the courtroom in the next 10 years.
For the present though, we will watch and wait to see if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed in time for the Court's October 2018 term. It should be an interesting summer!