- The Washington Times
Thursday, November 14, 2019

He has become a favorite punching bag for left-wing activists. His public reputation is scarred by sexual misconduct accusations, but Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh vowed to remain unintimidated and says he’s “not afraid.”

In an emotional speech to a private gathering of the Federalist Society, Justice Kavanaugh provided a glimpse inside his life during the bitter confirmation battle and heaped praise on his friends.

“My friends paid a heavy price, way too heavy a price,” Justice Kavanaugh said. “In the midst of it all, they stood up and they stood by me.”

He added, “I will always be not afraid.”

Justice Kavanaugh also urged fellow jurists and the next generation to be fearless in the pursuit of justice.

During the confirmation battle in which he was accused of sexual misconduct in high school and college, he often repeated to himself the lyrics of the hymn “Be Not Afraid,” he said.

He heard the hymn many times at Georgetown Preparatory School, a private Jesuit college-preparatory school for boys in Washington’s Maryland suburbs.

Justice Kavanaugh elected not to address the Federalist Society’s annual convention when he attended in 2018 shortly after his confirmation, but he took the stage last week to thank his allies.

More than 2,300 attendees shuffled past left-wing protesters to squeeze into Union Station and listen to Justice Kavanaugh deliver the keynote address for the group’s annual convention in Washington.

The protesters carried #ImpeachKavanaugh signs bearing the imprint of the liberal advocacy group Demand Justice and shouted at the attendees filing in. The activist group also set up a large screen outside the entrance to Union Station to play a video loop of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony where she detailed her sexual assault allegations against Justice Kavanaugh at the confirmation hearing.

She claimed that during a high school party Justice Kavanaugh and one of his friends jumped her — she feared they would rape her.

At the Federalist Society event, Justice Kavanaugh dined at a table with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and former White House counsel Don McGahn, who both delivered speeches that night.

Dinner attendees, who hailed from all three branches of the federal government, appeared undaunted by the protesters. They gave Justice Kavanaugh a standing ovation lasting several minutes as soon as he took the stage.

Alongside Justice Kavanaugh, two of his high court colleagues attended Thursday night’s black-tie affair: Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Justice Gorsuch addressed the convention Saturday evening at the Mayflower Hotel, and echoed Justice Kavanaugh’s remarks.

“What I say to you young people: Be courageous; aim high; we need you more than ever; be kind to one another along the way; be dogged,” Justice Gorsuch said. “And be not afraid, as Justice Kavanaugh said, be not afraid. Because guess what? They can throw their slings and arrows, and I’m still here.”

The lifetime-tenured judges rarely address critics of their work from outside their ranks in public, but the collection of Supreme Court justices and federal judges appeared more comfortable doing so in front of the right-leaning legal audience last week.

Many critics of Justice Kavanaugh and the Federalist Society have voiced concerns about the independence of the federal judges given the lifelong tenure they receive after being selected by a president belonging to a particular political party.

Two judges from President Trump’s shortlist of candidates for future Supreme Court vacancies also spoke in defense of the need for judges to be afforded lifetime tenure.

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge William Pryor noted that the framers of the Constitution “jealously guarded the independence of federal judges and the principle means they selected for doing so was to confer life tenure upon them.”

Judge Pryor’s colleague, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge David Stras, voiced a sharper defense of the privilege of lifetime tenure.

“I do think that there is value, a lot of value, in life tenure; I think it enables judges to not have to listen to outside voices [and] to be able to decide the cases purely based on the law and to do the right thing,” Judge Stras said. “I think that life tenure makes a difference.”

Judge Stras rejected the idea that limiting a federal judge’s tenure would make confirmation hearings less contentious.

Most of the federal judges in attendance avoided any discussion of current politics, but U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett challenged the agenda of political actors who wish to toss out the Constitution to suit their ends.

Judge Barrett noted recent criticisms of the Electoral College, the direct election of senators and the diminishing value of the First Amendment in various public opinion polls, before noting that the Constitution is not a “straitjacket.”

“The Constitution is less than 6,000 words and it makes no attempt to regulate every aspect of American life,” Judge Barrett said at the Federalist Society convention on Friday. “It leaves change largely in the hands of the states, and of the political branches of the federal government.”

She added: “The Constitution that we have may not be the one that we would adopt if we started from scratch with our own constitutional convention today, then again, I’m kind of skeptical that we would be able to agree on any constitution at all today.”

The audience for the judges’ remarks was a largely sympathetic collection of right-leaning lawyers, law students and professors, and fellow judges, but they were met with opposing viewpoints from some of their fellow panelists.

Federalist Society spokespersons estimated that more than 3,500 people attended last week’s convention.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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