Justice on Trial

In September 2018, I and millions of my fellow citizens witnessed a fascinating drama on television.  It was the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate conducting confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh prior to his elevation to the Supreme Court.  I and countless others were riveted by the high drama of the proceedings.

Judge Kavanaugh had a sterling judicial record, and he was obviously qualified for appointment to the nation’s highest court.  Democrats vigorously opposed his confirmation from the beginning. They were not concerned with his qualifications.  Their concern was with his judicial philosophy and his view of stare decisis.  Most particularly, did he consider Roe v Wade to be settled law?  Of course, Kavanaugh gave them a proper textbook response, but he would not commit himself to any future ruling on that matter. No judge could.  But that was not a satisfactory answer.  Many Democrats were convinced that he would be an opponent of abortion rights and that Roe v Wade would be in danger of being overturned. 

Activist women’s groups within the Democratic Party were determined to use every possible means to deny Kavanaugh his confirmation.  Nevertheless, as the hearings moved into the second week of September, it appeared that the young judge was all but assured elevation to the high court.  At almost the last moment, however, Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee revealed that a woman had made charges of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh.  The offense was alleged to have taken place in the 1980s, when the judge and his accuser were in their teens.  Kavanaugh was said to have forced the young woman onto a bed and attempt to remove her clothing.  Somehow, she escaped his embrace and locked herself in a bathroom, after that she fled the house alone.

The rush toward confirmation ground to a halt as the committee took time to examine the woman’s accusations.

Finally, the accuser had an opportunity to present her charges before the committee, and Judge Kavanaugh rebutted.   

A few days ago I finished reading the book Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court.  It was written by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino, two well-respected conservative scholars.  I was impressed by the well-sourced, behind-the-scenes chronicle of an event that captured the attention of a nation.  I will not bore you with a detailed review, but the following are what I believe to be the most important points:

  • Democrats were absolutely opposed to Kavanaugh’s confirmation from the outset. Any Trump nominee would have received similar opposition since he or she would be replacing a sometime swing-voter on the Supreme Court.  The confirmation votes of only three or four committee members were in question, only one of whom was a Democrat.
  • On September 13 the Kavanaugh hearings were moving toward a confirmation vote when suddenly it was revealed that Senator Dianne Feinstein had received a letter from a woman charging the judge with sexual misconduct. The letter had been received on July 30, six weeks prior to this revelation. The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, requested anonymity.  Senator Feinstein professed ignorance as to how the information had become public, but Christine Ford’s contacts with a newspaper reporter and a lawyer provide the probable answer. 
  • The committee had protocols for dealing with charges like those from Ms. Ford. The charges might have been quietly investigated by committee staffers, with sworn statements from possible witnesses, etc., without embarrassment to Judge Kavanaugh or his accuser.  The committee could have then evaluated the results of that investigation.  For reasons unknown, Senator Feinstein violated committee protocols and did not report the accusation..
  • Christine Ford was extremely vague on the details of the alleged incident. She was not certain of the year and the specific location.  Her description of the event changed over time, and grappling with Ford’s story was akin to wrestling an inchoate fantasy.
  • Her statements about the number and the gender of those present with her and Kavanaugh that day varied, but she eventually settled on two other boys and a female friend, Leland Ingham. When questioned, all three repeatedly denied any memory of the supposed “party.”  Christine Ford’s close friend, Leland Ingham Keyser, was subjected to immense pressure from friends to support Ford’s version of events, but she consistently insisted that she remembered no such party and that she had never met Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Christine made statements relative to the hearings that were demonstrably false. She stated that she would require more time to get to Washington to testify because of a fear of flying.  Actually, she frequently flies to vacation resorts in various parts of the world.  Committee Chairman Grassley expressed his willingness to arrange for her to give her testimony near her home in California.  Grassley’s accommodating statement was covered in the press, but when she arrived in Washington Ford claimed she had no knowledge of the Chairman’s offer.  The whole purpose seems to have been a desire to delay confirmation.
  • Along with sympathetic Democratic senators, Rachel Mitchell, an expert forensic interviewer of sex crime victims, questioned Christine Ford during her appearance before the committee. She acted on behalf of Republican committee members. Later, Mitchell said that, based on Ford’s description of the incident, she would have been unable to obtain a search warrant, much less prosecuted a crime, based on such minimal evidence.  She noted that the alleged witnesses either refuted or failed to corroborate Ford’s story;  her account of when the assault occurred was inconsistent, ranging from the early to the mid-1980s; Ford had never mentioned Kavanaugh until 2012, when his name was widely reported as a potential Supreme Court nominee;  finally, Mitchell noted that Ford had no memory of details that would support her story, such as who invited her to the party, how she got there, or how she got back to her home (a 20 minute car ride or a 3 hour walk in the dark).  
  • When Christine Ford’s accusation was revealed, other Kavanaugh accusers soon appeared on the scene; but these follow-up charges were ludicrous in the extreme and obviously contrived. Some liberal press types ran with them for a while, with questionable adherence to journalistic standards, but the hoaxes were gradually exposed.  In truth, the ridiculous nature of some of these stories helped to solidify Kavanaugh’s base of support.
  • The performance of the main-stream liberal media was generally atrocious. They tended to print every ugly rumor about the young Kavanaugh from the most questionable sources.  Christine Blasey Ford, on the other hand, was treated as though she was pure as the driven snow. Actually, Kavanaugh’s reputation for sexual probity in high school was much better than Ford’s.  Journalists and some senators were aware of this discrepancy, but the general public remained uninformed.    
  • On October 6, 2018, the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh as a Justice of the Supreme Court by a margin of fifty to forty-eight. 

Hemingway and Severino have written a fascinating account of this recent event in American political history.  I remain appalled by the whole sordid mess.  It disturbs me deeply to know that so many of our elected representatives are dishonest.  I can understand Democratic senators not wanting to confirm Kavanaugh as a justice, but why not base their opposition on their disapproval of his judicial philosophy?  That was the real reason. Why should they attack him as a man?  Do the radical extremists have that great a hold on the once great Democratic Party? Their senators on the Judiciary Committee were ready to destroy Brett Kavanaugh and his family on the basis of charges that would have been dismissed outright by any court in our land.

As for our revered free press, it should bow its head in shame.  With few exceptions, the reporting was one-sided and inaccurate.  Liberal reporters and commentators were more than willing to supply the verbal rope needed to hang Brett Kavanaugh.  Thank God they were not successful.  In the end, truth won out.         

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