WASHINGTON – During a two-hour meeting with Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh in her Senate office on August 21, 2018, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine stresses why she should trust him if he supports If you do, then weep. Not to reverse Wade. his confirmation.
Kavanaugh worked vigorously to reassure her that he was no threat to the historic abortion rights ruling.
“Start with my record, my respect for precedent, I believe it is enshrined in the Constitution, and my commitment and importance to the rule of law,” he said, according to contemporaneous notes placed by several staff members at the meeting. Told. “I understand the precedent and I understand the importance of reversing it.
“Roe is 45 years old. It’s been confirmed many times. Many people care a lot about it, and I’ve tried to demonstrate that I understand the real-world consequences,” he continued, according to notes. Putting up, he added: “I’m not a rock-the-boat kind of judge. I believe in consistency and a team of nine.”
Convinced, Collins, a Republican, made an elaborate speech a few weeks later, laying out his argument for supporting future justice, citing his stated commitment to precedent on Roe, which led to his death after a bitter fight. Confirmation helped. On Friday, Kavanaugh joined the majority, telling Collins he would defend.
His seeming turnaround in the case on Friday prompted Collins and another senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted Kavanaugh critical for his narrow confirmation, to vent his anger, saying he believed his beliefs. has been misused. His outrage was echoed at the Capitol by lawmakers, who said the court’s ruling helped erode any credibility of Supreme Court nominees at their confirmation hearings on Friday.
“I feel misled,” Collins said, adding that the decision was in contrast to assurances received privately from Kavanaugh, who had made similar, if less exhaustive, announcements at his public hearing.
Manchin, the only Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh, expressed a similar sentiment about Justice Neil Gorsuch, who made his strong statements about following precedent during his confirmation in 2017.
“I relied on Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed that Roe v. Wade legal precedent was set, and I am concerned that they provided for two generations of Americans by rule. We have chosen to reject the stability that has been given,” said Manchin, who is an anti-abortionist.
But senators’ sense of betrayal has only exposed the kabuki theater that surrounds the Supreme Court confirmation process on Capitol Hill, in which lawmakers ask questions they know potential justices are unlikely to fully answer. And the nominees comfortably introduce code words without any special status. ,
Senators pepper the nominee with questions about stalking – the principle of standing by what has been decided – and commitment to precedent. Nominees tell senators as little as possible but enough to get through, allowing senators to cast their vote depending on the party of the president making the nomination. It usually does not cause a major reaction.
But with Friday’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which set a nearly 50-year-old precedent and had far-reaching consequences, those statements of allegiance to precedent began to look less and more like traditional hearing rhetoric. Like, in the words of Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, “rank deception.”
Blumenthal, a former Supreme Court clerk, said, “When you consider what they told us at their confirmation hearings, I have no respect left for some of the judges.” “Their credibility is approaching zero with us, but also with the American people.”
Collins won re-election in 2020, but faced intense political backlash for supporting Kavanaugh, and her critics say she allowed herself to be taken by him because she was determined to vote for him. Those in the legal community also say that politicians and members of the judiciary do not see precedent in the same way, and it is not irreversible. Kavanaugh was saying the same thing with his consent on Friday in the Dobbs case.
“It is the norm to follow the example, and before this court can set aside a precedent, the stare judgment sets a high bar,” he wrote. “The history of this court shows, however, that the decision to stare is not absolute, and may not in fact be absolute.”
But during his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh placed too much emphasis on the first part of that statement and very little on the second, contributing to Collins and Manchin’s public outcry, a rare, extremely frank critique of the judges’ integrity. Collins noted that in his discussions with Gorsuch, he assured him that he “wrote a book on precedent”, a treatise titled “The Law of Judicial Precedent”.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who, as majority leader, played a key role in creating the court’s current makeup, said he didn’t believe the candidates he pushed during the Trump administration won the Senate. broke trust with
“I think precedent is important, and I don’t think any of these nominees promised they would never overturn precedent,” he said. “Sometimes the precedent needs to be reversed.”
With more and more of the court engaging in such high-profile political squabbles, the question now is how the outcome will affect future judicial nomination hearings and how lawmakers will respond in the sense that they have been heard in recent hearings. was misled.
Some say changes are in order.
“A hearing at this point is an insult to everyone’s intelligence,” said Brian Fallon, head of the progressive judicial advocacy group Demand Justice. “The desire of these nominees to answer in bromide, if they do answer questions, is a relic of a time when the court was considered above politics. That era is now long gone.”