WASHINGTON — The four days of Senate confirmation hearings for
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh were as heated as the
unusually high temperatures in Washington during that first week of
A lot of passion against the federal judge centered on
concern that if Kavanaugh gets a seat on the Supreme Court, he could
vote to overturn the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized
Richard Garnett, professor of law and political science
at the University of Notre Dame, said he has watched confirmation
hearings for at least 32 years — which he admits makes him somewhat of a
geek — but he described this particular hearing as “the worst I’ve ever
seen” not only for the interruptions and protests but “grandstanding
and misrepresenting” a judge with a long paper trail of decisions — more
than 440,000 public pages of records.
Garnett said he was
impressed with how “very calm and patient” Kavanaugh was during the long
hours of often-interrupted questioning.
He said it’s important to
remember that Kavanaugh, 53, is a young man, and if he gets the Senate
votes to become the 114th justice, he will “be there for a long time and
will write clear opinions.” He also pointed out that half of the
Supreme Court cases aren’t the 5-4 decisions, or cases about hot button
Similarly, Michael Moreland, professor of law and religion
at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, said he thinks there is “a
tendency to overstate how much change” Kavanaugh will make to the court.
described Kavanaugh as a well-regarded judge and smart lawyer who
performed well under the pressure of the Senate hearings, which he
describes as good civic lessons.
Both Moreland and Garnett
stressed Kavanaugh’s record as pointing to a desire to limit Congress’
ability to support administrative agencies such as the Environmental
Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade
Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to function
independently of the executive branch.
On abortion, Moreland said
the Roe decision wouldn’t change quickly and that laws were already
changing for this to become more of a state legislative issue. Garnett
said he felt confident Kavanaugh would take seriously religious freedom
rights and would respect the right of states to pass abortion
In the hearings themselves, Kavanaugh affirmed that
Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are “an important precedent
of the Supreme Court.”
When pressed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein,
D-California, about his view on a woman’s right to choose, he said: “As a
judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it, I mean
Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. (It’s) been reaffirmed
many times. Casey is precedent on precedent, which itself is an
important factor to remember. And I understand the significance of the
issue, the jurisprudential issue, and I understand the significance as
best I can; I always try, and I do hear, of the real-world effects of
that decision, as I tried to do all of the decisions of my court, and of
the Supreme Court.”
That day, when asked about religious liberty
by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Kavanaugh said: “In other countries around
the world you’re not free to take your religion into the public square”
and can only practice in your own home. “Being able to participate in
the public square is a part of the American tradition. I think as a
religious person, religious speech, religious ideas, religious thoughts,
that’s important,” he said.
The judge, who is Catholic, also spoke about putting his faith in action, during the Senate questioning period.
said he regularly serves meals with Catholic Charities’ St. Maria’s
Meals program in Washington and that talking to the people there helps
him to understand the situation that they are in.
could vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Sept. 13, but it could also be
delayed, making the final committee vote take place Sept. 20 followed by
a full Senate vote the next week.