People For the American Way

FACT CHECK: Yes, the Federalist Society Knows a Lot About Brett Kavanaugh

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 5, 2018

Contact: Derrick Crowe at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202.467.2386

In Senate hearings today, under questioning from Sen. Mike Lee, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said that he hadn’t been contacted by any representatives of the Federalist Society with regard to the vacancy created by the resignation of Justice Kennedy.

The implication was that neither the Federalist Society nor Donald Trump had any particular insight in how Kavanaugh would rule in particular issues.

“The idea that the Federalist Society doesn’t have a crystal clear picture of Brett Kavanaugh’s views on any number of issues is laughable,” said PFAW Vice President for Communications and Research Drew Courtney. “The Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation are knit into the fabric of the right-wing legal movement. When they approved Brett Kavanaugh for this job, their judgement was based on Kavanaugh’s years working and living alongside the rest of the conservative legal establishment. We may get to read his decisions, but they had the benefit of casual conversations after panel discussions, at cocktail parties, and at the office. Brett Kavanaugh is a rock solid vote for the far-right. That’s why he was chosen.”

As Courtney wrote in June:

Every candidate on the list was approved by both the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, two right-wing legal organizations deeply committed to overturning the decision both of which have had ample opportunity to make certain they know exactly where each potential nominee stands on the issue. The idea that either organization would recommend a Supreme Court Justice to Donald Trump without an iron-clad understanding, explicit or implicit, that he or she would overturn Roe is laughable.

Trump’s last candidate, Neil Gorsuch, got a lot of mileage out of feigning indignation at the possibility he’d be asked to commit to overturning the ruling recognizing women’s constitutional right to abortion. With his best steely glare he declared “No … I would have walked out the door. That’s not what judges do.” Commentators fawned over his performance, but few of them mentioned that he never mentioned whether he’d ever discussed the issue with anyone associated with the Federalist Society or Heritage, and his answer didn’t give pause to any of the anti-choice groups enthusiastically backing his confirmation.

Let’s not pretend that Donald Trump simply chose these organizations out of thin air. They were specifically chosen to assuage the Religious Right’s anxiety about supporting Trump’s candidacy. The entire point of bringing those groups into the process was to guarantee that his nominee would be rigidly anti-choice.

Trump’s allies are free to pretend that his nominee to the Supreme Court will have an open mind when it comes to abortion, but the rest of us aren’t obligated to believe them.