Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh has perhaps the longest Washington pedigree of any of the people who were on President Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court, having worked at the highest levels of the White House under President George W. Bush.
He clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — the man he now seeks to succeed — and served on special counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s team in the 1990s.
That long history will give the Senate plenty to review as it looks to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the high court.
He has been through the process before, having won confirmation to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on a 57-36 vote in 2006.
His nomination process then was dominated by his record in the Bush administration.
He has since added 12 years of service and more than 300 opinions on the appeals court.
Some social conservatives have worried that Judge Kavanaugh, if he reaches the high court, would follow in the footsteps of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is viewed as being among the more moderate of Republican-appointed justices.
But Justin Walker, a former clerk of both Justice Kennedy and Judge Kavanaugh, said Judge Kavanaugh has authored a number of opinions defending religious liberty.
While on the D.C. Circuit, the judge ruled against upholding the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, upheld prayer before a presidential inauguration and said a court can begin sessions with “God save the United States and this honorable court.”
Mr. Walker also said the judge is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, dissenting in a case where he argued that originalism and the Supreme Court’s precedent suggest Americans have the right to own a semi-automatic rifle.
“He has not been hesitant to take very strong stands in defense of conservative legal principles,” Mr. Walker said.
But liberals point to a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article by Judge Kavanaugh that has come under scrutiny since he was picked as one of the president’s front-runners to the Supreme Court.
In the article, the judge contends presidents should be exempt from time-consuming investigations and litigation that distracts from national security issues and ill serve the public interest.
With Mr. Trump’s campaign under investigation for suspected collusion with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign season, the progressive Alliance for Justice argues that Judge Kavanaugh would not stand up to the commander in chief, citing his 2009 article.
“Kavanaugh’s personal writings show that he would allow Donald Trump’s abuses of power to go unchecked,” the organization said.
Judge Kavanaugh’s recent ruling against an illegal immigrant teen seeking an abortion is also a point of contention for liberals because the case could likely come before the Supreme Court during the next term.
The teen, who was in government custody, demanded that the government facilitate the abortion by providing transportation and care afterward.
Judge Kavanaugh ruled against the teen, saying the government should have had more time to place the teen with a sponsor who could help with the abortion decision.
The full D.C. circuit overruled Judge Kavanaugh’s decision. He penned a dissent.
A Yale graduate, Judge Kavanaugh clerked for several federal judges.
The 53-year-old is married with two daughters and is an active member at his Catholic church.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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