Who is Supreme Court contender Brett Kavanaugh?


WASHINGTON — They’re all younger than 55 and conservative enough to make a first cut. But the four judges who are apparently the finalists for President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nomination are being measured against a set of questions that go well beyond age and ideology.

Federal judge Brett Kavanaugh is often mentioned as being the one candidate who checks all the boxes important to Trump. His legal experience and acumen are unquestioned. Kavanaugh’s sharp legal mind is a plus.

But presidents weigh all sorts of considerations in deciding on a Supreme Court nominee, often beginning with the big question: Will the choice be confirmed by the Senate?

Academic credentials, professional experience and sometimes even gender, race and geographical diversity all can be part of the equation.

The stakes are sky high for filling the opening created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s imminent retirement. The new justice has the potential to entrench conservative control of the Supreme Court for years to come.

Here are some of the pluses and minuses for Brett Kavanaugh, considered a Washington insider.

Background on Brett Kavanaugh

Current position: Judge on the the federal appellate court for the District of Columbia.

Age: 53

Education: He attended Yale University both as an undergraduate and law student.

Distinction:  Roughly 300 opinions in 12 years as a judge and a raft of legal articles and speaking engagements make Kavanaugh the most prolific of the prospective nominees.

Track record: He is widely viewed as a skilled, conservative judge on what is often called the second most powerful court in America. His opinions include several dissents that were later vindicated by Supreme Court majority opinions. Kavanaugh, who worked on the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, later wrote that he thinks presidents shouldn’t have to deal with criminal investigations or civil lawsuits while in office — a view that Trump might find attractive.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy speaks in San Diego.

Kavanaugh once served as a law clerk to retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | AP/Denis Poroy

Private life: He is active in his local Catholic church and as a coach for his daughters’ basketball teams.

Support for nomination: Some social conservatives fear Kavanaugh isn’t committed to issues that matter to them, like abortion. They cite a recent case involving a pregnant teenaged immigrant in federal custody. Kavanaugh would have delayed the teen’s abortion, in line with the Trump administration’s position, but another judge would have gone farther and declared that, as someone who is in the U.S. illegally, the teen had no right at all to an abortion.

Kavanaugh’s close ties to the Bush family, stemming from his five years in the White House under President George W. Bush, might not be a positive to Trump, who has sparred with the Bushes.

Kavanaugh also was a clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski, who retired abruptly last year as allegations of sexual misconduct grew.

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