Is Brett Kavanaugh a ‘promising choice’ or a ‘disturbing’ one? Depends who you ask
Left- and right-wing advocacy groups have sharply different views on the fitness of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court if confirmed.
Among the loudest pro-Kavanaugh voices: the conservative Heritage Foundation, an influential D.C. think tank that touted the nomination in a Tuesday blog post headlined “Trump Hits Another Home Run With Supreme Court Pick Brett Kavanaugh.”
John Malcolm, vice president of the foundation’s Institute for Constitutional Government, noted in the post that Kavanaugh was on the group’s list of preferred nominees.
Malcolm called Kavanaugh a “very promising choice,” praising him as an “outstanding writer” who’s authored some 300 opinions during his dozen years on the bench of the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Malcolm cited several of Kavanaugh’s articles and opinions that demonstrate the judge’s opposition to an undocumented minor’s right to an abortion while in US custody; indicting a sitting president; the Environmental Protection Agency’s disregarding of “cost-benefit analysis” when considering a proposed rule; limits on the president’s ability to remove members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board; the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; the District of Columbia’s ban on possessing semiautomatic rifles; and limits on independent political expenditures by nonprofits, among an array of other issues.
“Kavanaugh is a committed textualist,” Malcolm wrote. “As Kavanaugh succinctly stated in a book review published in the Harvard Law Review, ‘The text of the law is the law.’ He has reiterated this view in many of his opinions.”
Adam J. White, a research fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution, gave Kavanaugh additional plaudits in a phone interview.
“He’s been the intellectual leader on the lower federal courts for his generation,” said White, who also directs the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.
White said it’s fitting that Kavanaugh may soon sit on the Supreme Court because the panel has adopted “several of his analyses” in its majority opinions. “There is no disputing that the White House and the president really did try to pick the best possible nominee on the merits.”
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative research group, was also bullish on the nomination.
“President Trump stood up for the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law with this nomination,” Fitton said in a statement. “Judge Kavanaugh has a demonstrated record of applying the rule of law rather than legislating from the bench. His record shows Judge Kavanaugh will apply the U.S. Constitution as written and intended by our Founding Fathers.”
But Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the liberal Center for American Progress, ripped Kavanaugh in a strongly worded statement.
“Kavanaugh would bring all of Trump’s worst qualities to the Supreme Court for decades to come,” Tanden said. “In a disturbing echo of Trump’s policies toward immigrant families, Kavanaugh tried to force a detained immigrant woman to carry her pregnancy against her will, using anti-choice activist code of ‘abortion on demand’ in his official written opinion. Kavanaugh has proven himself to be a political operative when it comes to undermining the Affordable Care Act through frivolous cases and opinions. He has also written with shocking deference to presidential power and immunity, which raises the alarming but wholly legitimate question of whether this is one more effort by President Trump to obstruct justice for himself and his associates.”
Baher Azmy, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, another liberal think tank, was similarly critical.
“Brett Kavanaugh is an extremely conservative judge who is hostile to international human rights and believes in maximalist executive power,” Azmy said. “We can expect he will consistently side with the President, the police, and powerful corporate interests in continuing the dangerous judicial trend of limiting access to justice for victims of international human rights abuses, the poor and people of color.”
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, sounded the alarm on abortion rights in a statement on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it: with this nomination, the constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion in this country is on the line,” Laguens said. “We already know how Brett Kavanaugh would rule on Roe v. Wade, because the president told us so. We take Trump at his word that Brett Kavanaugh would overturn Roe v. Wade and get rid of the Affordable Care Act. The balance of the Supreme Court is at stake — we cannot allow it to be tilted against the constitutional right to access abortion.”