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Issue #1843      October 10, 2018

New supreme low

Prior to his appointment hundreds of women law professors from law schools around the United States have written to the United States Senate, asking all members to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court. Representing a range of disciplines, from corporate law and legal history to criminal justice and tax, women faculty have joined together to urge senators to reject Kavanaugh’s bid for the nation’s High Court.

“All of us believe that Judge Kavanaugh’s partisan performance and unprofessional behaviour during his testimony on September 27 disqualify him for the most important judicial position in our country,” explained Professor Kathleen Engel of the Suffolk University Law School. Indeed, the statement of opposition, signed by 830 women law faculty from coast to coast declared: “Judge Kavanaugh has shown that he is unable to respect women in positions of power, manifests bias with respect to gender and political affiliation, does not meet basic standards of professionalism, and lacks independence, impartiality, and judicial temperament.”

Professor Teri McMurtry-Chubb of Mercer University Law School, consistent with the joint statement’s call to reject the nominee, further expressed concern about Kavanaugh’s lack of candour and what appeared to be efforts to obfuscate the truth. “He dodged question after question, failing to answer even the most straight-forward inquires, which reflected a lack of commitment to transparency and impeded the Judiciary Committee’s ability to get to the truth.” The professors’ signed statement of opposition, submitted to all senators last week, further noted that Judge Kavanaugh “refused to answer probative questions and side-stepped with stock answers” throughout his presentation.

In addition, the women law professors noted Kavanaugh’s explosive temper, hostile temperament, and repeated displays of disrespect toward the women senators who questioned him on September 27. “Turning the questions back on Senator Klobuchar was an outrageous act,” noted Professor Jennifer Oliva of West Virginia University College of Law. “Such disrespectful antics cannot be erased with an after-the-fact apology. Instead, it reflected a real problem with dealing appropriately with women in positions of power.”

Professor Felice Batlan of Chicago-Kent College of Law further lamented that “Judge Kavanaugh’s anger and self-righteousness throughout the proceedings absolutely failed to convey empathy or understanding for the difficulty and delicacy of the situation at hand, one involving allegations of sexual assault. His tone alone exacerbated harms experienced by survivors all over the country.”

As legal educators preparing the next generation of lawyers to enter the profession, the women faculty signatories noted they could not in good conscience stand back and allow this nomination to take place. “We tell our students that the judiciary is the branch of government that serves as a check on partisan politics, provides litigants with a fair venue to resolve disputes, and is committed to equal justice for all,” Professor Karla McKanders of Vanderbilt Law School stated. “Judge Kavanaugh’s September 27 performance undermines our ability to teach our students the highest standards of professionalism and decorum to which they should [strive to] adhere as future lawyers.”

Mae Quinn, Visiting Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law noted that having Judge Kavanaugh elevated to the Supreme Court is “a very troubling proposition.” Rather, as the professors’ joint statement declares: “We are deeply concerned that if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will fail to perform his duties in a manner befitting our highest Court.”

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