On Monday night, President Donald Trump nominated appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The 53-year-old judge has an extensive track record from his twelve years on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, plus years of legal scholarship.
But how would Kavanaugh change the landscape of the Supreme Court if confirmed?
Here are his stances on hot-button issues.
In Heller v. D.C. (2011), Kavanaugh ruled that the Constitution does not distinguish between semiautomatic rifles and semiautomatic handguns. Liberals have sought to ban semiautomatic rifles by labeling them “assault weapons.”
Kavanaugh has opposed bureaucratic expansion of power, especially when the bureaucracy was the Environmental Protection Agency. He sided against the government in cases such as White Stallion Energy Center v. EPA and Michigan v. EPA.
He ruled that the president has the power to remove the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and has joined other conservative voices in questioning the Chevron defense, the latter of which states that judges should err on the side of siding with government bureaucrats when a law is vague.
This is one area where Kavanaugh has truly excelled. He has sided with religious groups over government agencies in many cases. This includes backing the Catholic Archdiocese in its attempt to advertise on the D.C. subway, opposing President Barack Obama’s contraception mandate in Priests for Life v. HHS, and working pro bono in cases such as Good News Club v. Milford Central School and Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.
Kavanaugh recently ruled on an abortion case. In Garza v. Hargan, Kavanaugh ruled that the U.S. government did not have to provide or facilitate an abortion for an underage female illegal immigrant held in custody. However, Kavanaugh declined to join an opinion by two other Republican-appointed justices that stated the landmark Roe v. Wade case was wrongly decided. This ruling will likely inflame activists on both sides of the abortion issue.
In another issue that may upset conservatives, Kavanaugh became the first justice to rule that the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to purchase health insurance was, legally, a tax, in Seven Sky v. Holder. Chief Justice John Roberts would later use this ruling to uphold the constitutionality of Obamacare, ruling that the mandate was a constitutional tax, rather than an unconstitutional mandate to purchase a product.
A potentially strong objection Democrats will have against Kavanaugh is his stance on exempting sitting presidents from criminal investigations as well as civil lawsuits.
“Congress might consider a law exempting a President — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel,” Kavanaugh wrote in a 2009 article. “A President who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as President.”
While Kavanaugh wrote only that the law should be changed, not that a justice should rule a certain way, Democrats might use this article to suggest that Kavanaugh would be biased in favor of President Trump in a case involving the president.