Trump Court Nominee Draws Sharp Criticism From Sens. Reed And Whitehouse

Jul 10, 2018

Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse

President Donald Trump’s pick for the soon-to-be vacated U.S. Supreme Court seat is drawing criticism from members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation.

Trump announced D.C. judge Brett Kavanaugh could replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

If confirmed, Kavanaugh, will likely be the reliable conservative that some have hoped for, and others have feared said Peter Margulies, a lawyer and professor at the Roger Williams University law school.

“I think on most issues, Judge Kavanaugh will defer to the government, in many cases involving national security for example. But he’ll be less willing to defer to the government on issues involving regulation,” said Margulies.

The Ivy-league educated judge clerked for Justice Kennedy, as did other Trump pick, current Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. However Margulies says Kavanaugh may not be as willing as Kennedy to waver from conservative viewpoints.

“The process President Trump here followed was to try to avoid surprises like Kennedy,” said Margulies. “Conservatives certainly don’t want that. And unfortunately I think then the likelihood of surprises diminishes. But at the same time every case is different.”

Kavanugh’s appointment requires confirmation from Congress. Within hours of the announcement, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse raised questions about Kavanaugh’s ability to serve impartially on the court.

“I opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lower court seat because of his overtly partisan background,” said Reed in a statement. “I did not believe he was a good fit to serve on the DC Circuit then, and I do not think he is a good fit for the Supreme Court now.”

Reed said the Senate should wait on confirming Kavanaugh until after special counsel Robert Mueller concludes his investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump administration.

Senator Whitehouse warned that dark money groups would cloud Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“The confirmation process will be powered by massive, secretive spending by their phony front groups,” said Whitehouse. “That’s why Brett Kavanaugh must convince me he can actually be independent.  I, along with the American people, will not tolerate a rigged system anymore.”

Supreme Court decisions in the last session dealt serious blows to Democrats, including rulings on unions, and President Trump’s travel ban. Many Democrats remain unhappy with over the handling of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland.

Liberals are concerned that abortion rights will be jeopardized with a fifth conservative justice.

“Justice Kavanaugh will be a voice for deference to the states on issues like reproductive freedom,” said law professor Peter Margulies. “If states want to limit access to abortion through things like longer waiting periods for example, I think Justice Kavanaugh would be inclined to uphold those kinds of restrictions.”

Progressive groups in Rhode Island have already called on the General Assembly to vote to codify the right to an abortion in state law, should federal abortion rights change.