The confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was a watershed moment in the history of the Supreme Court. For those few weeks, all of America watched as a coordinated activist campaign did all it could to assassinate the character of a man over still-unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct decades before.
Now, a full year after Kavanaugh’s July 2018 nomination, a big question remains: Can this be prevented from happening again? In their new book “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court,” authors Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at the Federalist, seek to answer that question while providing previously unreported stories from the now-infamous nomination fight.
The book was released Tuesday and features over 100 interviews with Trump administration officials, several United States senators, multiple Supreme Court justices, and even President Donald Trump himself.
Those familiar with the history of the Supreme Court know that Kavanaugh was not an anomaly, but rather the latest victim of a long pattern of partisan attacks on judicial nominees. In an interview with Blaze Media, Severino said that she and Hemingway were spurred to write the book after “seeing what this ever-increasing partisanship in the judicial battles is doing to our country.”
“We trace it back through Justice Thomas’ confirmation hearings, Judge Bork, and even earlier, showing the ever-increasing progression of hostility toward nominees and then some of the lessons that we’ve learned in each each iteration about that.”
How can Americans keep this judicial fight from becoming worse?
In short, Severino finds that “if judges are willing to confine themselves to their constitutionally limited role to simply apply the law, and apply the Constitution, we don’t need to have these kinds of political battles, because it shouldn’t matter as much as it does what these Supreme Court justices themselves are doing.”
Hemingway said that what happened to Brett Kavanaugh was “not completely new in that there have been these types of battles over nominees before, but obviously things have just gotten completely ridiculous in the level of opposition and the coordination of the opposition.”
Hemingway added, however, that the degradation of the Supreme Court confirmation process into a nakedly political fight shouldn’t be that surprising by this point.
“It makes sense that people have turned this into a political thing,” Hemingway said, “because, unfortunately, in recent decades, progressives on the court have behaved as political animals.”
“When the people didn’t vote the way that they wished they would have voted on a given piece of legislation, they just dictated it from the highest court,” Hemingway explained. “So it’s not surprising that you see other people outside the court behaving in a political fashion, because so are the people on the court.”
Severino said that the fervor from the Left over the Supreme Court can also be explained by a long-term momentum toward originalism, away from the “peak” level of judicial activism on the Warren court in the 1970s.
The result of that momentum shift, Severino added, is that “the Left is incensed that their secret weapon of the courts, which so long has been used as an end run around the political process, is being taken away from them.”
So what does all of this mean for future Supreme Court confirmations? How contentious will things get if President Trump is able to nominate another justice during his tenure? Hemingway thinks that that outcome is going to depend on how much conservatives learned from the Kavanaugh fight.
She noted that replacing a more liberal justice in the future would mean that the Left would probably act “even more apocalyptic,” but “just because that’s the way it’s been in the past does not mean it will be that way in the future.”
“Not that the Left will act any differently,” Hemingway clarified, “but I think what happened with the Kavanaugh confirmation is that conservatives became more aware of the lengths that some activists will go to to destroy a man as part of gaining control of the court. So it only works so long as people let it work.”