Kavanaugh must not join the high courtMarc H. Morial / September 7, 2018
It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law.”
— “Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 531 U.S. 98, Bush v. Gore [Dissent], December 12, 2000
There are many words one could use to describe President Trump’s White House, but you might be hard pressed to choose “transparent” as one of them. It should come as no surprise to anyone who even casually follows politics that a president who bucks decades of tradition and refuses (to this day) to release his tax returns is offering the American public a nominee for the Supreme Court whose public record of work remains largely unknown and unavailable.
Unfortunately, Trump’s campaign and subsequent presidency has acclimated much of the public, and many of our political leaders, to lowered expectations of open and transparent governance, but this growing tolerance for the erosion of institutional democratic norms must stop now or our nation’s highest court, and the hard-fought-for gains of human and civil rights groups, will be lost for generations to come.
If the past is prologue, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will do the civil rights community no favors as a sitting Supreme Court justice. From what we can glean from his court decisions, Judge Kavanaugh has a strong record of ruling against policies and protections that seek to address injustices levied on marginalized communities.
Concerned citizens can call (202) 224-3121 to tell their Senators to vote no on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
In 2011, President Obama’s administration blocked a South Carolina law requiring residents to show photo ID before voting. In 2012, Judge Kavanaugh wrote an opinion upholding that very same law. In a keynote address to the Heritage Foundation, Judge Kavanaugh shared his view that the Supreme Court was wrong to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate as constitutional. And in his only decision on record concerning abortion rights, Judge Kavanaugh dissented from a decision to allow an undocumented, teenage detainee to seek an abortion, seeking to further delay the process while dismissing the concerns and desires of the young woman.
When fundamental liberties are at stake, the public and our Congress must act. To fully evaluate what kind of justice Judge Kavanaugh will be, we must know what kind of justice and public servant he has been. This is why the National Urban League joined forces with sister civil rights organizations to demand that Judge Kavanaugh’s September 4 confirmation hearing be delayed until his entire record can be fully, impartially and carefully examined by the Senate. Based on the research compiled by the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, he is not fit to serve on the nation’s highest court.
A rushed nomination process conducted without the full trove of government documents and records related to his nomination will leave a cloud of illegitimacy hanging over any eventual nomination and it will undermine the public’s confidence in our nation’s highest court. A Supreme Court appointment is a lifetime appointment. In the recent past, requesting and receiving all relevant documentation and records was the norm. That should remain the case today, especially when so many rights and liberties hang in the balance.
Just because a president, who has the constitutional duty and authority to fill court vacancies, nominates a justice, it is not a foregone conclusion that the nominee will make it to the bench—just ask Merrick Garland, President Obama’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. In the 229-year history of the Supreme Court, presidents, beginning with George Washington, have nominated 163 men and the occasional woman for the Supreme Court, but only 113 have served on our nation’s highest court.
There have been moments in our history when our nation has had to fight to ensure that the court swings more towards justice and not a particular partisan ideology. While Senate Republicans do not need a single vote from Democrats to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, they do need to know that we the people are watching, and come Election Day, we can and will make our thoughts known with our votes.
To continue with the nomination process under this unnecessary and politically damaging cloud of secrecy would be a supremely bad decision that would undermine our nation’s judicial branch.
Marc H. Morial is the president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, the nation’s largest civil rights organization.