At an event hosted by Duke Law School Wednesday night, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has attained an iconic status among feminists, went out of her way to praise the newest member of the Supreme Court, conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, again. Ginsburg’s brief description of her colleague echoed what Kavanaugh’s defenders have said all along: he is a “very decent” and “very smart” man.
Ginsburg praised Kavanaugh, along with conservative 2017-appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch, in response to a loaded assertion by Duke Law Professor Neil Siegel. In comments highlighted by National Review, after Ginsburg gave a 30-minute speech focused on the 2018 term, Siegel said in the Q&A that he worried that “nominees for the Supreme Court are not chosen primarily anymore for independence, legal ability, [and] personal decency,” and wondered aloud “if that’s a loss for all of us.”
Ginsburg clearly understood Siegel’s subtext and came to the defense of both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
“My two newest colleagues are very decent, very smart individuals,” Ginsburg said. As evidence of their fair-minded competency, she noted that “she assigned two opinions to Gorsuch and one to Kavanaugh during the last term, something she was only able to do only because the two justices senior to her on the court (Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas) were in the minority,” National Review’s John McCormack notes.
“The Court remains the most collegial place I have ever worked,” said Ginsburg before expressing her dismay at how partisan and divisive the nominations have become. Despite being a “flaming feminist,” she noted, she was confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate, 96-3, while staunch originalist Justice Antonin Scalia was unanimously approved. “My hope is we will return to the way it once was,” she said. The problem, she suggested, is societal, where people refuse to speak to people who they don’t perceive as their “own kind.” We should “welcome” different views, not just “tolerate” them, she maintained.
This isn’t the first time Ginsburg has made a point of praising Kavanaugh. At least twice Ginsburg has publicly celebrated her newest colleague for his work in promoting gender equality by appointing the court’s first ever all-female law clerk staff. “There is a very important first on the Supreme Court this term and it’s thanks to our new justice, Justice Kavanaugh,” Ginsburg told an audience at Georgetown Law School earlier this month.
As The Daily Wire noted at the time, that was at least the second time Ginsburg underscored that historic move by Kavanaugh. “Justice Kavanaugh made history by bringing on board an all-female law clerk crew,” she told a conference of judges in New York in early June. “Thanks to his selections, the court has this term, for the first time ever, more women than men serving as law clerks.”
Though it was historic, Kavanaugh’s appointment of an all-female staff shouldn’t have come as a surprise. During the hyperpartisan, uncorroborated allegation-filled confirmation process, Kavanaugh pointed out to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he has a record of elevating women.
“A majority of my 48 law clerks over the last 12 years have been women,” Kavanaugh told the committee. “In my time on the bench, no federal judge — not a single one in the country — has sent more women law clerks to clerk on the Supreme Court than I have.”
Following the bitter and brutal confirmation process, Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate on October 6, 2018, 50-48. The following month, the Senate Judiciary Committee finalized its report on the accusations against the then-nominee, finding “no evidence to substantiate any of the claims of sexual assault made against Justice Kavanaugh.”
“After an extensive investigation that included the thorough review of all potentially credible evidence submitted and interviews of more than 40 individuals with information relating to the allegations, including classmates and friends of all those involved, Committee investigators found no witness who could provide any verifiable evidence to support any of the allegations brought against Justice Kavanaugh,” the committee concluded. “In other words, following the separate and extensive investigations by both the Committee and the FBI, there was no evidence to substantiate any of the claims of sexual assault made against Justice Kavanaugh.”