Gun Laws & Legislation

What To Expect In Judge Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings

REUTERS/Ting Shen

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Larry Keane

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is a resolute man of his word. He said he wanted a vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination before the Supreme Court gavels in for its’ next session in October and he set a date to make that happen. Senate confirmation hearings begin Sept. 4 and are expected to last four days.

That will set into motion a tedious and predictable line of questions, or simply rants, from anti-gun senators who will use the opportunity to attempt to impugn Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial acumen. They’ll go after his dissent in Heller II. They’ll grouse about his insistence on interpreting the law as it’s written.

Here’s a memo to those senators: Good luck with that.

We’ve Seen This Before

Here’s why I’m confident none of this will work. First, Judge Kavanaugh is among the most highly qualified jurist to ever be nominated to the nation’s highest court. Second, we saw this play out less than two years ago with Justice Neil Gorsuch. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

Judge Kavanaugh approaches his nomination hearings among the most highly qualified for the duty. He graduated Yale College in 1987 and Yale Law School in 1990. He clerked for Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom he’s nominated to replace, and later for Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, as well as Third Circuit Judge Walter Stapleton. He served as staff secretary for President George W. Bush and in 2006, was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He has issued more than 300 opinions in 12 years on the bench.

He’s an originalist, meaning he interprets the law as it was written in the text of the day, instead of attempting to applying meaning du jour to established law.

He said as much in his remarks following President Donald Trump’s nomination announcement.

“My judicial philosophy is straightforward,” Judge Kavanaugh explained. “A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”

Confidence in Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is also rooted in the fact that we’ve seen the opposition’s strategy. Senators opposed to Judge Kavanaugh nearly ran to the Supreme Court steps following the nomination to decry the move and herald it as a sign of impending national doom. The hysteria didn’t hold up.

They Tried With Justice Gorsuch

On Sept. 4, it won’t hold up, either. Just look to the confirmation hearings for Justice Neil Gorsuch. When questioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller decision that affirmed an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, Justice Gorsuch didn’t rise to the bait of her proposal of limits on the Second Amendment.

“Whatever’s in Heller is the law, and I follow the law,” Gorsuch said, adding, “It is not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, senator, respectfully, it’s a matter of it being the law and my job is to apply and enforce the law.”

They Can’t Abide By The Legal Philosophy

The real issue at stake during the hearings is that President Trump kept his word when he promised to nominate Supreme Court nominees cut from the same cloth as the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Kavanaugh is that man. He lauded Justice Scalia as a model of judicial restraint and disciplined adherence to law, calling him a “role model,” a “hero,” adding that “I loved the guy.”

While Capitol Hill theatrics play out, with all the anticipated huffing and puffing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is confident that Judge Kavanaugh is right for the job. He anticipates a close vote, but one that will deliver Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.