Reliving The Game: Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas

Soenke Pietsch (‘21)

In the United States, the supreme court is the highest body of the judicial branch of government, one of three in our nation. This office is made up of one chief justice and eight associate justices, all of whom are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. These men and women serve on the Court as long as they please, subject only to impeachment. Their primary objective is hearing and ruling on cases, for which no law or amendment of the Constitution makes a verdict on; thus, their decisions have a nationwide impact.

One of the responsibilities of any elected President is filling any vacancies on the Supreme Court, an especially daunting and challenging task, considering these men and women, in certain cases, serve the court for the remainder of their lives. Therefore, nomination hearings are instrumental in determining who is and isn’t fit for this imperative office. During these hearings, including the ones of current judges like Samuel Alito and Stephen Breyer, both parties in the Senate try to find a candidate, that tends to fall in line with their views on the socio economic issues, that define our nation. After Judge Anthony Kennedy’s decision to step down as judge on the court in early 2018, President Donald J. Trump has now settled on who will replace him: Brett Kavanaugh.

Kennedy had been the swing vote on many of the Court’s most ideologically charged decisions, partially responsible for 5-4 rulings that legalized same-sex marriage, preserving Roe v. Wade, deciding to keep warrant-less wiretapping, blowing up campaign finance restrictions, and overturning Washington’s handgun ban. To an extent, he also weakened the Voting Rights Act. The stances he took on these prevalent issues made him one of the most powerful people in the United States for well over two decade since his nomination in 1991 by then President Ronald Reagan. As the importance of this position becomes ever more apparent, it reveals the influence Brett Kavanaugh will have in his future as Judge.

Throughout every Supreme Court Judges nomination, the hearings, that clarify a Judge’s ability to be a member of this prestigious group, often bring forward the alleged, worst aspects of these men and women’s lives. Brett Kavanaugh was not immune to this. During his hearings, Christine Blasey Ford reported to Congress Democrats that (then) Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault while both were attending high school. Immediately, Kavanaugh denied the allegation. It was reported that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California knew about the allegation against Kavanaugh but declined to share it with the other Democrats on the committee hearing Kavanaugh’s nomination. Feinstein’s failure to bring this issue up to other Democrats meant, that these allegations weren’t brought forward during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings either. As a result, Christine Blasey Ford came forward with these allegations under her own name as part of an interview with the Washington Post on September 16th. In turn, Kavanaugh’s nomination became as controversial as the decisions he would be ruling on as Judge.

Shockingly seeming to mirror Kavanaugh’s perplexed path to Supreme Court is the hearings of one of Anthony Kennedy’s closest colleagues: Judge Clarence Thomas. In 1991, after Clarence was nominated to the position, Anita Hill, a college of Clarence at the time, told her friends that he had harassed her. While working for Clarence at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he (allegedly) subjected her to unwarranted and inappropriate comments. Similarly to Kavanaugh, Hill’s remarks about the (then) nominee had been known by some of the Senators, such as Joe Biden, but not been brought to the public until after the vote had been finalized.

As the similarities between the two cases became ever more striking, Anita Hills came forward on September 14, addressing the allegations brought against Kavanaugh by Ford, saying through a spokesperson, that “the reluctance of someone to come forward demonstrates that even in the #MeToo era, it remains incredibly difficult to report harassment, abuse or assault by people in power.” She concluded by proposing, that “the Senate Judiciary Committee should put in place a process that enables anyone, with a complaint of this nature, to be heard.”

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