Recipient: Senators Hatch and Leahy
The Honorable Arlen Specter
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senators Hatch and Leahy:
On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, representing over 180 organizations, we write to express our opposition to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit is part of the administration’s effort to reward adherence to far right partisan ideology in its appointments to the federal bench. It is that ideology, and not legal excellence, that has driven this appointment. Kavanaugh has spent most of his relatively short legal career in highly partisan positions at the White House and Kenneth Starr’s Office of Independent Counsel. Such a partisan advocate should not be confirmed for a lifetime position on the critically important D.C. Circuit.
In his position with the Bush administration’s White House Counsel’s office, one of Kavanaugh’s primary responsibilities was serving on the administration’s Judicial Selection Committee. Kavanaugh was a key player in the selection of most of President Bush’s more controversial nominees, including Priscilla Owen, Dennis Shedd, Janice Rogers Brown, Miguel Estrada, and William Pryor. As reflected in their records, such nominees would seek to undermine the authority of Congress and weaken federal civil and human rights protections for persons of color, individuals with disabilities, women, workers, gays and lesbians, older Americans, and children. Kavanaugh’s aggressive support for such nominees raises troubling questions about his own legal philosophy.
In his work for President Bush, Kavanaugh has also sought vigorously to expand presidential secrecy and promote what critics have called an “imperial presidency.” This has included efforts to keep secret the records of Vice President Cheney’s energy task force meetings and to eviscerate the Presidential Records Act concerning the records of former presidents. This is particularly problematic in light of the crucial role that the D.C. Circuit plays with respect to such questions.
In addition, Kavanaugh has vigorously defended even the most questionable conduct of former independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Kavanaugh himself was responsible for drafting the office’s articles of impeachment against President Clinton, which even conservative commentators have criticized as “strain[ing] credulity” and based on “shaky allegations.”ii
Kavanaugh’s lack of legal experience also makes him an unqualified nominee for the D.C. Circuit. Of the ten most significant “litigated” matters he reported to the Senate Judiciary Committee, two consisted only of filing friend-of-the-court briefs and several others did not involve a court appearance. In two Supreme Court cases, including one in which Kavanaugh tried to limit the attorney-client privilege and another concerning government-endorsed school prayer, the Supreme Court squarely rejected Kavanaugh’s arguments. Kavanaugh has less legal experience than virtually any Republican or Democratic D.C. Circuit judicial nominee in more than 30 years.
In addition, Kavanaugh’s nomination has special significance for the communities we represent because of the importance of the court to which he has been nominated. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has a critical role in our federal judicial system and is widely regarded as the second most important court in the United States, after the U.S. Supreme Court. Because of the significance of this court, it is extremely important that this nomination be carefully scrutinized and that any new judges confirmed to this court have a demonstrated commitment to protect all of our civil and human rights.
In our review of Kavanaugh’s record, we see only the strident workings of a political operative, not the legal experience and judgment necessary for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Given this, we have no choice but to oppose Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation. If you have any questions or need further information, please contact Nancy Zirkin, LCCR deputy director/director of public policy at (202) 263-2880, or Andrea Martin, LCCR senior counsel, at (202) 263-2852.
Nancy Zirkin Deputy
Director/Director of Public Policy
cc: Senate Judiciary Committee
i Dana Milbank, Whitewater Lawyer Turns Proponent of Presidential Power, Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2002.
ii Glenn Simpson, Starr’s Report Makes Powerful Case – but for What?, Wall Street Journal (Sept. 14, 1998); Stephen Hedges, Starr’s Case Unique and Hardly Airtight, Chicago Tribune (Sept. 13, 1998)