President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he would nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 53, to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
A longtime foe of former President Bill Clinton and a former aide to President George W. Bush, Kavanaugh is favored by many conservatives and has served on the D.C. Circuit Court since 2006, bringing with him a long record of conservative jurisprudence.
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Kavanaugh, a graduate of Yale Law School, cut his teeth under former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, who led the investigation that ultimately resulted in Clinton’s impeachment. Kavanaugh himself was a lead author of the controversial Starr Report.
A former Kennedy clerk, Kavanaugh is much loved in conservative legal circles as an originalist in the mold of Justice Clarence Thomas and former Justice Antonin Scalia.
Rising conservative star J.D. Vance, who wrote the best-selling Hillbilly Elegy, recently took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to make the case for Kavanaugh, who was one of his professors at Yale Law School.
“He is a committed textualist and originalist, one whose time on the bench has revealed a unique ability to apply these principles to legal facts,” Vance wrote. “He deeply believes in the constitutional separation of powers as a means for ensuring governmental accountability and protecting individual liberty. From the start of his career, he’s applied the Constitution faithfully, even when that made him a lonely voice. He has done so with particular tenacity on the issue that matters most to the president: taking power away from unelected bureaucrats and returning it to elected officials.”
Kavanaugh was in the spotlight recently when he sided with the Trump administration and dissented in a ruling that allowed an undocumented minor to undergo an abortion. In his dissent, he accused the majority of devising “a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. Government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.”
However, some conservatives have privately argued that his dissent did not go far enough and have expressed skepticism he may not be a reliable vote in potentially overturning Roe v. Wade.
More than any of the other finalists, Kavanaugh is a creature of Washington, having spent the vast majority of his career in the capital.
“In terms of his actual daily life, he’s a guy that does not live in a conservative bubble,” said Doug Gansler, the former Democratic Attorney General of Maryland and a friend and Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s. “He has liberal friends and spends time talking to his liberal friends about a variety of issues. But make no mistake about it, he’s a conservative guy.”
Kavanaugh was born in Washington and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. He and his wife Ashley, a former personal secretary to President George W. Bush, have two daughters.
According to the D.C. Circuit Court website, Kavanaugh serves meals with Catholic Charities in Washington and has tutored at Washington Jesuit Academy, where he sits on the board of directors, and at J.O. Wilson Elementary School. He’s also a fan of the Washington Nationals and coaches youth basketball, according to Gansler.
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