Brett Kavanaugh is an intelligent and deliberate judge who is poised to become a conservative thought leader on the U.S. Supreme court. His record on the appellate court suggests that President Trump’s nominee to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy will maintain a commitment to interpreting the law as it is written, and not how he may wish it had been crafted.
A neutral interpretation of the law is all anyone can ask of a Supreme Court justice. No one can say for certain how Kavanaugh will rule on challenges to Roe v. Wade, or the ability of states to restrict gay marriage or any of the other hot button issues that concern Democrats any time a Republican president gets to fill a court vacancy. But Kavanaugh can be counted on to defer to precedent and eschew partisanship. That’s largely been his record for 12 years on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the second most important court in the country.
Kavanaugh has a long record of conservative jurisprudence. He is not likely to be a pick who changes his spots after he is seated on the court, as some past conservative picks have done.
He is well-liked by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Kavanaugh has genuine and longstanding friendships with liberals who are quick to praise his civility and his intellect. He has impeccable academic credentials as a Yale degree holder and he clerked for Justice Kennedy, whose seat he will take if approved.
His time in the George W. Bush administration means he has an understanding of the executive branch, with all of its advantages and disadvantages. Kavanaugh is noted for the number of law clerks he’s placed with the Supreme Court, both serving conservative and liberal justices, and many of them have been women and minorities.
Kavanaugh is committed to the judicial branch's non-partisanship. “Check those political allegiances at the door when you become a judge,” he said in 2015 in a speech at Catholic University's law school.
And as a judge serious about the rule of law, he is committed to stare decisis, the principal that precedent should be given considerable deference. He’s not likely to overrule a past decision by the court simply because he disagrees with it.
The remarks he gave at his nomination affirmed his commitment to this important principle. His judicial philosophy is well-known. Kavanaugh is a process conservative, not a results conservative, which means he is committed to neutral principles applied neutrally.
In making this pick, Trump should be commended for listening to the team he assembled to advise him. Kavanaugh was the choice of White House Counsel Don McGahn and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society. While the lead up to the nomination has revealed critics on the right who argue that Kavanaugh is not conservative enough, his two decades of work will speak for itself.
His credentials, his commitment to judicial independence, his unassailable character, his record as a judge dedicated to the Constitution and his likeability should overwhelm the Senate skeptics who will be tempted to oppose him simply because he was appointed by Trump.