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CEO DATELINE – Associations weigh in on Supreme Court pick Kavanaugh

U.S. Supreme Court Sept. 4, 2018
By James Cullum

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The American Bar Association has determined that federal appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh is “well qualified” for the U.S. Supreme Court. However, a number of trade groups and professional societies recently announced their opposition to Kavanaugh, saying his confirmation would pose a risk to abortion rights, to people with disabilities and to the Affordable Care Act.

“After an exhaustive evaluation process, the Standing Committee has determined by a unanimous vote that Judge Kavanaugh is ‘Well Qualified’ for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court,” the ABA wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee leadership Aug. 31. 

Kavanaugh, a conservative who is undergoing a long series of confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee to succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, received unanimous backing from the ABA’s 15-member Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. It’s the ABA’s strongest affirmative endorsement.

The National Association of Women Lawyers, however, determined that Kavanugh is “not qualified” for the role because he has failed to demonstrate the requisite “commitment to women’s rights or issues that have a special impact on women.”

The ABA has more than 400,000 members and reported revenue of $251 million in its most recent IRS filing. The National Association of Women Lawyers reported $1.3 million in revenue to the IRS.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also received a joint letter opposing the confirmation from dozens of national and state organizations representing or advocating for people with disabilities, including the National Association of Social Workers, the Council on Independent Living and the National Association of Community Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors.

“Our review of Judge Kavanaugh’s record indicates that his confirmation would place at risk access to health care and civil rights protections for people with disabilities, opportunities for people with disabilities to make choices about their own lives and the ability of executive branch agencies to interpret and enforce the law,” the groups said in the joint letter.   

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced its support for Kavanaugh Aug. 1. The Chamber said it would include senators’ votes in the group’s annual voting scorecard.

Paul Moxley, the chair of the ABA Standing Committee, will release the panel’s full findings in his testimony to the Senate committee on Friday, Sept. 7. The evaluation was compiled through a detailed peer review looking into the professional qualifications, integrity, judicial temperament and professional competence of federal judicial candidates. The ABA’s review has been a staple of the selection of justices to the high court since President Eisenhower invited the organization into the process in 1953.

“To merit the Committee's rating of ‘Well Qualified,’ a Supreme Court nominee must be a preeminent member of the legal profession, have outstanding legal ability and exceptional breadth of experience and meet the very highest standards of integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament,” according to the Committee’s “Backgrounder” manual.

Kavanaugh, a 1990 Yale Law School graduate, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for the last 12 years, and is a former staff secretary to then-President George W. Bush, who recommended his nomination in 2003, but which was stalled until his appointment in 2006. The ABA initially ranked Kavanaugh as “well-qualified” in 2003, but downgraded the ranking to “qualified” in 2006.