WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, drew swift praise and condemnation, presaging what’s sure to be a bruising battle over his confirmation.
Conservative organizations lauded Kavanaugh as an “originalist” and a “textualist” who would interpret the Constitution as the Founding Fathers intended, in the mold of Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Gorsuch’s hero and fishing buddy, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The conservative legal watchdog group Judicial Crisis Network announced almost immediately Monday night an initial $1.4 million cable news and online ad buy in support of the confirmation of Kavanaugh, a longtime Washington insider who serves on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
“Judge Kavanaugh is a home run,” said Carrie Severino, JCN’s chief counsel and policy director, in an email. “Like Gorsuch, Judge Kavanaugh is brilliant, fair and independent, committed to following the law and honoring the Constitution. I look forward to the confirmation of another great justice,” added Severino, whose organization spent $10 million for ad buys supporting Gorsuch’s confirmation.
Justin Walker, an assistant professor at the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville and a former clerk to Kennedy and Kavanaugh, lavished praise on the Supreme Court nominee.
“Brett Kavanaugh is courageous, tough, defiant,” Walker said. “He’s on a court that [former President Barack] Obama and Harry Reid [the former Democratic Senate majority leader] packed with liberals, and he’s been a lonely voice defending conservative legal principles without exception, without apology, and without surrender. He will never, ever go wobbly.”
Kavanaugh, Walker predicted, would be “much more conservative” than Kennedy, who had been a key swing vote on the high court, and “shift the court dramatically to the right.”
“This is a conservative revolution as big as the Reagan Revolution,” Walker said. “Issues like affirmative action, school prayer, gun rights, and abortion will see drastic changes. I predict an end to affirmative action, an end to successful litigation about religious displays and prayers, an end to bans on semi-automatic rifles, and an end to almost all judicial [decisions allowing abortion]. This change will give Donald Trump the most conservative judicial legacy of any Republican in history, by far.”
For many of the very same reasons Walker cited, Trump’s selection of Kavanaugh, 53, drew vociferous opposition from the left.
Hundreds of protesters rallied against Kavanaugh outside the Supreme Court Monday night — in a demonstration organized by liberal groups — chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Kavanaugh has got to go.” The demonstration also drew a smattering of Kavanaugh supporters, including anti-abortion activists.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Senate confirmation of Kavanaugh would directly threaten women’s right to legal abortions by voting to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing the right to a legal abortion, and gut Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it: with this nomination, the constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion in this country is on the line,” Laguens said.
“We already know how Brett Kavanaugh would rule on Roe v. Wade, because the president told us so. We take Trump at his word that Brett Kavanaugh would overturn Roe v. Wade and get rid of the Affordable Care Act. The balance of the Supreme Court is at stake. We cannot allow it to be tilted against the constitutional right to access abortion.”
The American Civil Liberties Union also predicted Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and erode other long-established rights for women, minorities and gay people.
In one of a series of tweets urging opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the ACLU said:
BREAKING: President Trump just announced the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
If confirmed, Kavanaugh could be the decisive vote the president needs to ensure that his concerted campaign to undermine civil liberties and civil rights has long-term impact. pic.twitter.com/rE9SR7dhcf
— ACLU (@ACLU) July 10, 2018
Other critics pointed to Kavanaugh decisions narrowing enforcement of Obama-era environmental regulations and the scope of federal agencies’ authority.