Since President Donald Trump nominated him Monday night, critics have been jousting over where exactly nominee Brett Kavanaugh would fit on the Supreme Court’s ideological spectrum. But no matter where he falls among justices on the right wing, two things are certain: He is no Anthony Kennedy. And he is ready.
Over his dozen years on the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh has shown a more confident conservatism than Justice Kennedy, the 30-year veteran he would succeed. Kavanaugh takes a high-altitude approach, espousing broad constitutional principles. As a result, he stands to be more than just a reliable vote for the right. He could powerfully influence the country’s legal agenda for decades.
Kavanaugh’s writings already have been cited in Supreme Court rulings, as in a 2013 decision preventing certain US lawsuits against foreign corporations alleged to be responsible for human-rights abuses abroad and a 2015 decision stopping the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating mercury emissions from coal-fired plants without taking account of costs.
Having navigated Washington’s corridors of power since the 1990s, Kavanaugh, 53 and known for his personable ways, could also be more persuasive with his colleagues than other new justices.
Kavanaugh’s hard-line conservative record, compared with that of retiring centrist-conservative Kennedy, would mean diminished individual rights for women and minorities, affecting access to abortion and opportunities for racial affirmative action. On larger questions involving government power, a new Justice Kavanaugh could mean further reining in of environmental regulations and consumer protection.
Based on past his past writings, Kavanaugh would also bolster the power and prerogatives of the President — an area likely to elicit particular Senate attention because of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and ties to the Trump campaign.