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A battle supreme

Dems, civil rights groups and others gearing up for confirmation fight over U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh

Free Press staff, wire reports | 7/12/2018, noon
To President Trump, he’s “a judge’s judge” and “a brilliant legal mind” who deserves swift confirmation.
Brett M. Kavanaugh, 53, promises to be an independent justice who would keep “an open mind in every case” in accepting President Trump’s nomination to be a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, he was introduced Monday night at the White House as the president’s choice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81. Evan Vucci/Associated Press

To President Trump, he’s “a judge’s judge” and “a brilliant legal mind” who deserves swift confirmation.

But to Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive officer of the umbrella Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, new Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh is “a direct threat to our rights and unfit to serve on our nation’s highest court with his record of putting the rich ahead of the rest of us.”

To Sherilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the 53-year-old D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge would “jeopardize the progress in civil rights law that has been made in the past 78 years by seeking to roll back fair housing laws, affirmative action and a woman’s right to choose.”

And national NAACP President Derrick Johnson declared that the nation’s oldest civil rights group views Judge Kavanaugh as an enemy of “civil rights, workers’ rights, consumer rights and women’s rights.”  

Recalling the NAACP’s opposition to Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the appeals court, Mr. Johnson stated that “with a Justice Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, we could see reversals of hard won gains in equal opportunity in education, employment and housing.

“We could see further exclusion of communities of color from participation in our democracy. We could see racism continue to flourish within the criminal justice system. We could see the elimination of effective tools for proving discrimination.”

All of that makes clear the kind of opposition that Judge Kavanaugh will face as he seeks U.S. Senate confirmation in the coming weeks, with much of the leadership of the African-American and Latino communities seeking to prevent him from being seated on the court.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky must muster a bare majority of senators to send Judge Kavanaugh to the high court to fill the seat that his mentor and former boss, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, is leaving.

Judge Kavanaugh started his legal career working as a law clerk for Justice Kennedy, long considered the swing vote on the nine-member court. There are rumors the 81-year-old agreed to retire after receiving assurances his protégé would replace him.

While the civil rights community is rallying against Judge Kavanaugh, Sen. McConnell and other Republican supporters are hailing him as a “superb pick” who could help entrench conservative, corporate-supported control of the law for years to come.

While some Democrats promised to fight to block the nominee, it will be an uphill climb as Republicans control the Senate by a 51-49 margin, though that margin is slimmer with GOP Sen. John McCain absent in Arizona battling brain cancer.

Judge Kavanaugh, who would follow Justice Neil Gorsuch as a Trump pick on the court, is a well-known figure in Washington and has been involved in some of the biggest controversies of the past two decades.

He helped investigate former Democratic President Bill Clinton in the 1990s working for independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

He also was on Republican George W. Bush’s team in the contentious Florida recount fight in the 2000 presidential election, then served as a senior official in Bush’s White House.