Politics

Kavanaugh Would Not Be Trump’s Justice, Experts Testify

Despite high marks, Sen. Blumenthal again raises ‘judicial independence’ concerns

Brett Kavanaugh, nominee to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court, is sworn in during his confirmation hearing. (Photo By Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

American Bar Association officials told the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh received the highest possible marks in an assessment of his qualifications for the job, including keeping “an open mind.”

After studying his record and conducting a list of interviews, the organization determined the nominee would be an independent justice even as Democratic senators worry about his ties to the Trump White House.

Two Association officials led off the fourth day of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, and told the panel their in-depth review of his qualifications concluded with an unanimous “well qualified” rating.

“He is what he seems: very decent, humble and honest,” John Tarpley, ABA’s principal evaluator of federal judicial nominees, sharing what an individual said in one of the 120 interview she association’s review committee conducted

On professional competence, the nominee “easily exceeds these very high criteria,” Tarpley said.

[Three Takeaways From Brett Kavanaugh’s Testimony]

Others described the dozen-year veteran of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit “fair” and “result-oriented.” Another told the reviewers Kavanaugh “wants to do the right thing.” One his judicial temperament, those interviewed hailed Kavanaugh’s “compassion” and “decisiveness” and “open mindedness,” with one telling the association he is “free from bias,” Tarpley said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal noted ABA’s report on the nominee’s qualifications led to a conclusion that the association “believes Judge Kavanaugh would uphold judicial independence.”

When pressed a bit by the Connecticut Democrat, Tarpley and Paul Moxley, chair of the ABA review committee, said they believe a Justice Kavanaugh would not be subject to public or executive branch pressure when ruling on cases before the high court.

Democratic Judiciary members, and some Republicans, spent the previous three days exploring whether the nominee might be too inclined to rule that President Donald Trump, who nominated him, or another sitting chief executive could not be indicted while still in office.

[What If Senators Actually Tried to Expel Cory Booker?]

Kavanaugh assured them he would not be deferential to Trump, but would not say how he would rule in such a case nor did he give an answer on the constitutionality of indicting a sitting occupant of the Oval Office.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., wondered whether the association searched for patterns in any of the more than 300 decisions Kavanaugh has made on the D.C. Circuit

“If there is a pattern … what we saw was an allegiance to the law,” Tarpley replied. “And applying the law to the facts of the case, and a respect for precedent.”

Watch: Booker, Grassley, Cornyn Battle Over Release of Bush-Era Kavanaugh Emails

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.