Citing doubts about temperament and partisanship, ABA reopens evaluation of Kavanaugh

October 8, 2018

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 5—one day before the floor vote that confirmed SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh—announcing that it was reopening its evaluation into the judge’s “temperament” to sit on the court, The Hill reported.

The ABA—which is the nation’s largest legal organization, with more than 400,000 members—said in the letter to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-California), “New information of a material nature regarding temperament during the September 27th hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee has prompted a reopening of the Standing Committee’s evaluation,”

Chair Paul T. Moxley   wrote, “The committee does not expect to complete a process and re-vote prior to the scheduled Senate vote [on October 6]. Our original report must be read in conjunction with the foregoing. Our original rating stands.”

Indeed, during Kavanaugh’s hearing before the Judiciary Committee on September 27 about allegations of sexual assault brought by Dr. Christine Blaséy Ford, the judge touted his “well-qualified” rating from the ABA— its highest rating; attributing it to his “judicial temperament” while serving as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court for 12 years.

Democratic lawmakers criticized Kavanaugh’s conduct during the heated hearing, where he repeatedly questioned Democratic senators about their drinking habits when they asked him about his behavior during high school and college, The Hill said.

In addition, at the hearing, Kavanaugh injected partisan language into his argument regarding the accusations lodged against him. “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” he said, “fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

In a first for the nation’s highest court, The New York Times reported that Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens on October 4 said that he does not believe that Kavanaugh should be confirmed to the high court—commenting that there was “merit” to criticism of the judge’s temperament after his heated testimony last week.

What’s more, the ABA called on the Judiciary Committee to postpone a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court until the FBI could investigate accusations of sexual misconduct against him.

That investigation was characterized by most familiar with it as “incomplete,” however, multiple GOP senators on expressed satisfaction with the probe.

Reopening a judicial candidate’s evaluation process when new information comes to light is part of the standing committee’s routine process, explained in this 33-page backgrounder. The ABA Journal ran an in-depth article about the standing committee’s judicial evaluations in January.

Research contact: @ArisFolley

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