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Area legislators ready to fight against Supreme Court pick

  • In this April 26, 2004, file photo, Brett Kavanaugh appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP file photo



@ecutts_HG
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It didn’t take long for Democratic legislators in the Valley to try and poke holes in President Donald Trump’s nomination of conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.

Tweeting about an hour after Trump announced his nomination, U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, highlighted Kavanaugh’s past statements that a president shouldn’t be “distracted” by lawsuits and noted that four people connected to the president have either been criminally charged or have pleaded guilty to charges.

“Any of these cases could conceivably come before #SCOTUS,” McGovern tweeted. “Let that sink in for a minute.”

In an interview with the Gazette Tuesday, McGovern said all the judges who were believed to be on Trump’s nomination shortlist would be terrible choices. Top contenders had included federal appeals judges Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett and Thomas Hardiman.

“It’s particularly curious that Trump picked the one who has gone out of his way to say that presidents shouldn’t be held accountable for any wrongdoing,” McGovern said.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey also tweeted on that same topic shortly after the announcement Monday.

“Brett Kavanaugh was the only nominee on Trump’s shortlist who has written that a sitting president should not be indicted. It’s not a coincidence that he was selected. #SCOTUSpick #WhatsAtStake,” Markey tweeted.

A favorite of the Republican legal establishment in Washington, Kavanaugh, 53, is a former law clerk for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh is also a former aide to President George W. Bush and in the 1990s worked as an attorney for Ken Starr, where he was instrumental in drafting a report that urged the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. He serves on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Kennedy announced his retirement on June 27 after 30 years of rulings. While a conservative, Kennedy was also known to take more of a centrist view at times and was a crucial swing vote on progressive issues such as abortion rights, affirmative action and gay rights. The 81-year-old was appointed in 1988 by Ronald Reagan.

With Kavanaugh’s conservative leanings, McGovern said “we could potentially have a Supreme Court that seeks to undo the several decades of social progress in this country.”

In the coming days and weeks of confirmation hearings, McGovern said he hopes that both Republicans and Democrats will ask detailed questions of Kavanaugh and demand that the questions be answered and answered with specificity.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, is also looking to hearings for an opportunity to glean information on what Kavanaugh’s views are on precedent in federal law.

“Conservatives usually like to make the argument that they subscribe to settled law,” Neal said. “We’ll see.”

Bruce Miller, a professor of constitutional law and civil procedure at Western New England University, said he expects senators to question Kavanaugh for his position on torture. Kavanaugh worked for the second Bush administration on counterterrorism policy, Miller explained.

Neal said he hopes that a new conservative majority on the court would not revisit and subsequently overturn many of the civil rights and liberties established during the 1960s.

The Senate is the body that holds the power to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, but both McGovern and Neal said they won’t be shy on making their disapproval of Kavanaugh known.

Neal said he will share his thoughts with the state’s senators — Markey and Elizabeth Warren — even though they have similar views and won’t need convincing.

Warren tweeted Monday night that “Brett Kavanaugh’s record as a judge and lawyer is clear: hostile to health care for millions, opposed to the CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] & corporate accountability, thinks Presidents like Trump are above the law — and conservatives are confident that he would overturn Roe v. Wade. I’ll be voting no.”

McGovern said he was going to talk to as many senators as possible, and also encourage his constituents and people across the country to speak out.

“The American people need to make their voices heard,” he said. “I don’t think the American people want a judge on the Supreme Court to radically reverse the course of American justice and dismantle the fundamental rights of Americans everywhere. I don’t think that is something the average Americans desire — no matter political persuasion.”

Implications of conservative leaning court

Miller describes himself as left of center and “not sanguine” about what Kavanaugh’s appointment confirmation means for the future of the court and the country, though he said that the judge is a smart and talented lawyer.

“What he strikes me as is a very very effective political conservative, now in the position of being a justice of the Supreme Court,” Miller said. “If confirmed by the Senate — it’s hard to imagine it won’t be — we will have four extremely ideological conservative justices.”

With Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the nation’s highest court could be in a situation where it is potentially significantly out of step with a large part of the country, according to Miller.

Miller also said the conservative-leaning Supreme Court would be reminiscent of the first half of the 1930s when four “very, very staunch conservatives” were seated and one of their goals was to prevent the government from regulating capitalism — something that may be a goal of the court today.

Miller said he expects Trump to be presented with a court of five justices who are ready to rollback regulations the country has lived under for decades and the assumption that the economy is subject to federal legislation.

“I do think that the majority, the five justice majority, will give president Trump a very, very, free hand in his shaping of American foreign affairs, diplomatic and military policy,” he said. “I think the travel ban decision showed that. It doesn’t matter what this president does, there will be, I think, five justices who will endorse it.”

This article contains reporting from the Associated Press.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.