Accessibility links

Breaking News

Who is Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Nominee to the Supreme Court?

With the U.S. Supreme Court building in the background, Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives prior to meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 10, 2018.
Who Is Trump's Nominee to the US Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh?
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:06:25 0:00

United States Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh started working to secure his place on the high court Tuesday.

Kavenaugh is meeting with senators to ask for their support. The U.S. Senate votes on nominees to be Justices on the Supreme Court. A simple majority is required.

President Donald Trump selected Kavanaugh to replace retiring 81-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy. It is likely to be one of the more important decisions of his presidency.

"There is no one in America more qualified for this position, or more deserving,” the president said. Trump spoke during the television announcement of the nomination from the White House East Room on Monday. He called Kavanaugh a "brilliant jurist" who has "devoted his life to public service.

The 53-year-old Kavanaugh has served as a federal judge for 12 years. And, he has been part of some highly disputed legal cases.

Before he was a judge, he ran an investigation into the death of a deputy adviser to President Bill Clinton. It was ruled a suicide, but some people dispute this.

Later, he worked on Bill Clinton’s impeachment over a sexual relationship with a White House intern.

He also took part in legal action over the vote recount in the state of Florida during the 2000 presidential election. He later joined the administration of President George W. Bush.

Strong reactions from members of both parties

Trump’s choice was met with predictable reactions from Republicans and Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Kavanaugh "an impressive" nominee who is "well qualified" to sit on the nation's highest court.

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called him a "candidate worthy of the Senate's consideration." Grassley’s committee will hold hearings on Kavanaugh's nomination before it goes to a vote before the full Senate.

Democrats are worried that Kavanaugh will join with the court's other four conservative members to reverse legalized abortion in the United States. Abortion became legal in 1973 in a famous case known as Roe versus Wade. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has promised to protect abortion rights. He said he would work to defeat Kavanaugh, in his words, “with everything I have.”

Other Democrats are worried about Kavanaugh’s written opinion that a President should not face legal action for a crime while in office.

They believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may try to make the president testify in his investigation of the Trump campaign's possible links to Russia. They say Trump might be accused of a crime.

The case would then go to the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh: 'Humbled'

At the announcement, Kavanaugh stood with his wife and two daughters and said he was “humbled” by the nomination. He described how his mother was a trailblazer who went to law school and later became a trial judge. His father went to law school at night, he added.

“Tomorrow I begin meeting with members of the Senate,” he said, “If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind in every case."

Republicans hope to confirm Kavanaugh before the court begins its session in October.

However, his selection will start a major confirmation battle in the U.S. Senate. Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority. Democrats say they will fight to prevent the high court from becoming too conservative.

No middle position

Justice Kennedy was often a member of five-to-four majority decisions on the high court. Those included a number of disputed cases, including ones supporting same-sex marriage and a woman's right to an abortion.

Jonathan Turley is a George Washington University constitutional law professor. He says that without Kennedy, the Supreme Court has strong left and strong right positions, but no one in the middle.

The Supreme Court sits at the top of the judicial branch of government. The two other branches are represented by the presidency and Congress. But, unlike presidents or members of Congress, Supreme Court justices do not have term limits — they serve until they resign or die.

So Trump’s pick could affect the court’s decisions for many years into the future.

I’m Susan Shand.

VOA’s Steve Herman reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in This Story

qualify v. to have the necessary skill or knowledge to do a particular job or activity

deserve v. to have the necessary skill or knowledge to do a particular job or activity

brilliant adj. highly intelligent

intern n. an unpaid assistant, usually still a student

impressive adj. deserving attention, admiration, or respect

reverse v. to go in the opposite direction

abortion n. the removal of a fetus from a woman’s uterus

testify v. to give evidence in a court

trailblazer – n. a person who makes, does, or discovers something new and makes it acceptable or popular

resonate – v. to have particular meaning or importance for someone