Democrats, abortion rights activists, environmentalists and civil libertarians, among others, are beginning to marshal their forces in opposition to Donald Trump's pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. But that fight will be an uphill battle with unapologetic Senate Republicans who blocked President Obama's pick for the court for nearly a year, now promising a vote before this November's midterms while they still enjoy the slimmest of majorities in the U.S. Senate.
On today's BradCast [audio file to show linked below], we look at the legal history and political background of Trump's nominee for the post, Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. We're joined for that conversation by Slate's great legal reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN, who has been covering all things SCOTUS for us of late.
Stern counters, among other things, Trump's assertion during his Monday night announcement that Kavanaugh is a "thought leader" and "brilliant jurist". He details how the 53-year old federal appeals court judge uses cookie-cutter legal phrases to describe his "judicial philosophy", as crafted for him by the right-wing Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. Those phrases --- "A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written." --- betray his years of dedication not to individual liberties or laws or the Constitution, but in service to the cause of GOP politics.
"He's doing what Neil Gorsuch did," Stern tells me, "which is to spew out these lines which sound good, if you're not very attuned to legal argot. But what they really mean is 'I'm going to do whatever the hell I want, and I'm going to ascribe this pretextual, orginalist, textualist gleam to it in order to make it seem like I'm maintaining my independence and not just doing favors for Republicans.'"
Stern cites, as evidence, a number of Kavanaugh's rulings on the DC Circuit Court, his service on the Ken Starr commission in the 1990s (which led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton), and his years as loyal White House legal counsel during the George W. Bush Administration. "He is a party man. Brett Kavanaugh is a Republican. He has been a Republican foot soldier in virtually every major Republican legal battle of modern times. He has served that role in his capacity as a judge on the DC Circuit to a 'T'."
We discuss Kavanaugh's road-map for overturning Roe v. Wade's nationwide Constitutional right to an abortion, as he laid out himself in his 2017 opinions attempting to block a lawful abortion sought by a 17-year old undocumented immigrant detained by the Trump Administration. But abortion is hardly the only hard-won right that will be, almost immediately, imperiled if Democrats are unable to block Kavanaugh's confirmation to what will become a very hard right-wing Court with his seating. Key environmental rulings are likely to be overturned, Stern argues, as well as those regarding voting rights, privacy rights, and many others.
Stern also explains why he remains very dubious, at best, that either Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins or Alaska's Lisa Murkowski will break from their party to vote against Trump's nominee (Collins, he explains, is "not widely known for having a spine" and Murkowski, so far, has shown little sign of having one either) and why, if confirmed, Kavanaugh could decide to blow up years of precedent by refusing to recuse himself from SCOTUS appeals to cases that he has previously heard as a member of the DC Circuit Court.
There is one --- and, really, only one --- thin thread of potentially encouraging news regarding Kavanaugh's nomination. That can be found in his 2009 law review article on whether sitting Presidents may be indicted or face other criminal and civil legal actions. Kavanaugh's written comments on the matter, as we discuss, may, in fact, serve to argue the opposite of what a number of his opponents have been (mis)reporting regarding those remarks. In fact, Kavanaugh's argument suggests a sitting President can, in fact, be indicted under both current law and the U.S. Constitution, for civil and criminal matters alike.
Finally today, we're joined by Desi Doyen for the latest Green News Report and much more related to it, including the early response from environmentalists on Trump's SCOTUS pick, how the recent record-smashing heatwaves we've seen from coast to coast over the past week could become much worse very soon, and how this year's hurricane season has already turned deadly from the Atlantic to the Pacific...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)