President Donald Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Kennedy frequently was the swing vote on major Supreme Court decisions. His replacement has the potential to shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court for decades to come.
Which leaves many asking, “who is Brett Kavanaugh?”
Judge Kavanaugh was born in Washington, D.C. in 1965 to Edward and Martha Kavanaugh. The Kavanaugh’s made Washington, D.C. their home as Martha, his mother was a Maryland state court judge. So, the judiciary lifestyle is quite familiar to the Kavanaugh family.
Judge Kavanaugh attended Yale College and received his law degree from Yale Law School. After graduating, he launched his career as a law clerk for three different judges, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man he is set to replace on the Supreme Court. He then spent several years building his reputation as an attorney including arguing cases before the Supreme Court. His accomplishments were noticed by President George W. Bush’s administration who asked him to first serve as the Associate Counsel and later Senior Associate Counsel to the President from 2001 to 2003. Then, from 2003 until 2006, he was promoted to Assistant to the President and later Staff Secretary to the President. Since 2006, he has presided on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is widely considered the second-most important court in the nation.
Besides being highly qualified, Kavanaugh is known for being both an originalist and a textualist. In other words, he adheres strictly to the text of the constitution and its original intended meaning.
Edwin Meese, 75th Attorney General, affirms that “Judge Kavanaugh is an originalist who is faithful to the Constitution.”
Judge Kavanaugh’s “constitutional opinions are powerfully written and are deeply grounded in text, history, and structure. . . His statutory opinions likewise show him to be a committed textualist,” stated Ed Whelan, President of Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Edith Roberts of Scotusblog has described him as, “bring[ing] a pragmatic approach to judging… his judicial philosophy is conservative, and he has applied principles of textualism and originalism espoused by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.”
Kavanaugh’s opinions on recent court cases demonstrate a strong commitment to the First Amendment. Last year, he dissented from his court’s ruling that the Washington, D.C. transit authority could ban religiously themed advertisements, including a Christmas ad; he called the policy “pure discrimination” and “odious.” He has also defended the traditional role of religion and prayer in the public square, vigorously arguing in Newdow v. Roberts (2010) for the constitutionality of prayers at government ceremonies and the phrase “so help me God” in the Presidential Oath of Office.
Outside the courtroom, Judge Kavanaugh is known as a family man. He and his wife of 14 years, Ashley, have two daughters. They attend Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. where he serves as a regular lector and is a volunteer coach for the Catholic Youth Association basketball teams.