At Thursday’s historic and dramatic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Judge Brett Kavanaugh issued a fiery and angry response to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her more than three decades ago. An upset Kavanaugh—who alternated between bursts of belligerence and tear-suppressing sniffles—assailed the hearing as “a calculated and orchestrated political hit.” He railed against “outside left-wing opposition groups” and claimed this “circus” was a Democratic plot fueled by “revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” whom he investigated in the 1990s. When questioned by Democratic senators, Kavanaugh was contentious, argumentative, and combative.
Kavanaugh’s performance at the hearing immediately raised questions about his judicial temperament. During his first set of confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh had declared, “The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution.” Yet here he was now, hurling politicized vitriol. Judith Resnik, a law professor at Yale, told the New York Times his remarks were “partisan and not judicious.” And legal experts quickly began discussing whether Kavanaugh—whose previous work for independent counsel Kenneth Starr and the George W. Bush administration had already cast him as one of the more partisan federal judges—could be a fair-minded and politics-free arbiter as a Supreme Court justice.
Judicial temperament—and its importance—is a topic much discussed by legal mavens. One described it this way: “Judicial temperament, at its best, is a form of restraint that appears as an even-handedness of vision, a thorough-going fairness that eschews anger in favor of reason and clings to respect of all parties as an essential ingredient for the operation of justice.” Certainly, Kavanaugh’s testimony did not meet those standards.
And Kavanaugh’s appearance might not have met his own standards for judicial temperament. [Continue reading…]