Shortly after Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, partisan political opponents began their rounds on the cable news circuit and social media, issuing bombastic comments about the eminently qualified jurist.
Perhaps none was as egregious as was tweeted by former Democratic National Committee chairman and Clinton family confidant, Terry McAuliffe. His statement the evening of the announcement was, “The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come and will morph our Supreme Court into a political arm of the right-wing Republican Party.”
Statements such as McAuliffe’s were echoed throughout the ranks of elected Democrats and affiliated groups such as Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion and left-wing groups. These reactions can only be based in either fear of a loss of power or pure political demagoguery. Either is a sad indictment on the current state of affairs in which we find our nation.
While I have not had the pleasure of meeting Kavanaugh, I have had the honor of knowing hundreds of judges and justices on the Kentucky Supreme Court for the last 20 years. Prior to entering private practice, I served as the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts and as chief of staff to former Chief Justice Joseph Lambert. During my tenure and as a practicing lawyer from New Madrid Bend to Black Mountain, I was able to see what characteristics and qualities lead to the making of a high-quality judge. As I look at Kavanaugh’s nomination, I have attempted to apply each of those standards to him.
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The first, without question, is knowledge of the law. Judges at all levels, but especially on the Supreme Court, should have a deep understanding of the law, including, most importantly, our Constitution. Having written over 300 judicial opinions, Judge Kavanaugh has proven over and again that he has that knowledge. During his time as a federal judge, the Supreme Court has upheld his decisions 13 times, while reversing him only once. Prior to his nomination, the American Bar Association ranked him as “well qualified” to be a federal judge, the highest rating it gives.
The second characteristic that I believe makes a good judge is experience. Even the most brilliant attorney cannot walk out of law school prepared to serve as a judge. Once again, Kavanaugh seems well-prepared. In addition to impressive legal experience in the private sector, he served as a clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy and as White House staff secretary for President George W. Bush. Since 2006, he has served as judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the highest level court underneath the Supreme Court. These experiences in both public and private life have given him an excellent background to serve in such a vaunted position.
The third trait I look for is how a judge applies the law. A good judge must follow the law, not make it. As any good civics teacher will tell you, it is the role of the legislative branch of government to create law, while the judicial branch interprets it. As a state legislator, I deeply respect the separation of powers and believe our founding fathers put it in place to ensure that a strong system of checks and balances would prevent any one branch from acquiring too much power. Based on his decisions and writings, Judge Kavanaugh understands this as well. Time magazine described him as a “stalwart originalist,” meaning he believes the original intent of the Constitution and its amendments should be applied, rather than judges using the bench as a way for change and political activism. This places him in the camp of such judicial giants as the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Finally, Kavanaugh is a family man who coaches his kids’ sports teams. And he believes in servant leadership, volunteering his time to organizations that give food to the homeless.
As Senate confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh begin in the near future, I expect we will be inundated with liberal organizations and office holders criticizing him, not based on merit, but rather that he was nominated by President Trump, whom they vilify. However, I am confident Sen. Mitch McConnell will shepherd his nomination across the finish line, much as he did with Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.
To me, Kavanaugh not only meets, but exceeds the standard I would use to measure the potential of a Supreme Court Justice. I strongly encourage the Senate to confirm him. I look forward to his time on the highest bench in the land and feel confident our Constitution will be in safe hands.
State Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, represents the 33rd District, comprised of portions of Jefferson and Oldham counties. He is chairman of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice, Public Safety and Judiciary. He previously served as executive director of the Administrative Office of the Courts and chief of staff for Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert.