WASHINGTON — New Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh said Oct. 8 he has no “bitterness” over a contentious confirmation process that ultimately ended with a Senate vote Oct. 6 to confirm him for the seat on the high court left vacant by the July 31 retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“The Supreme Court is an institution of law. It is not a partisan or political institution. The justices do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We do not caucus in separate rooms,” Kavanaugh said in remarks at an evening ceremonial swearing-in held in the East Room of the White House. “The Supreme Court is a team of nine, and I will always be a team player on the team of nine.”
Anthony administered the oath at the swearing-in. The packed room include Kavanaugh’s wife and daughters and other family members along with Chief Justice John Roberts and all the associate justices. Kavanaugh was to hear his first cases Oct. 9 with the rest of the court.
Roberts officially swore in Kavanaugh late Oct. 6, after the Senate’s 50-48 confirmation vote, which took place despite the interruptions of screaming protesters who had to be escorted from the gallery that oversees the Senate chamber.
The demonstrators were voicing their objection to the confirmation because Kavanaugh had been accused of sexual misconduct. The vote followed the conclusion of a weeklong FBI probe. The agency’s final report was not released to the public but made available to all the senators for their review; the agency found no corroborating evidence on the claims.
On July 9, President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Anthony Kennedy.
Even when Kavanaugh, a Catholic, was still on a list of potential nominees, many Democrats vowed they would oppose his confirmation. The chorus of objections only grew when allegations of sexual assault were lodged against the nominee in the eleventh hour of the confirmation process. And after his confirmation, Kavanaugh’s opponents said they would continue to protest him taking a seat on the high court.
Hours after the Senate voted, a watchdog group began a petition calling on the House Judiciary Committee to impeach the new justice — in anticipation of Democrats winning a majority of House seats in the midterms and therefore having a Democratic committee chairman.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, conducted confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh the first week of September.
The evening of Sept. 23, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who is the ranking member of the committee, released a letter she had received in July that was written by a woman, later identified as Christine Blasey Ford, claiming that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party 36 years ago when they both were in high school in the Washington area.
On Sept. 27, the committee held a daylong hearing to allow Ford to give her testimony. Kavanaugh also testified, vehemently denying any such assault occurred. He said he did not even know Ford.
Afterward, the committee voted to send the Kavanaugh nomination to the full Senate, but also agreed with a proposal by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, to give the FBI a week to investigate claims made against Kavanaugh.
The FBI wrapped up its investigation Oct. 3 and sent its report to committee members for their review. On Oct. 5, senators voted 51-49 to move the Kavanaugh confirmation to the final vote.
The FBI report was not released to the public, but according to news reports, a single copy was made available to the senators to read in a secure room in the basement of the Capitol. They each had one hour to review it.
Before casting her vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a speech on the Senate floor that she was fully confident the FBI inquiry into the allegations against Kavanaugh was “thorough” and it showed there was no corroborating evidence for any of the claims made against the nominee. But opponents of Kavanaugh still claimed the accusations were “credible.”