Jesuits, legal institutions back away from Kavanaugh

Ashraf Khalil
Associated Press

Washington – Educational, legal and religious institutions important to the life of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have come out with calls to either delay or outright cancel the confirmation process.

The calls from the dean of Yale Law School, the president of the American Bar Association, and the magazine of the Jesuit religious order come as the Senate wrestles with how to proceed with the Kavanaugh nomination in the face of allegations of sexual assault.

The most recent of these calls came from Yale, Kavanaugh’s alma mater for both undergraduate studies and law school. Heather Gerken, dean of the Yale Law School, on Friday called for a delay pending additional investigations into allegations against Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in both high school and college. Proceeding with the confirmation without those investigations would be against “the best interest of the court or our profession,” Gerken wrote.

Gerken’s statement follows the ABA’s call for a delay.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee released Thursday, ABA President Robert Carlson said the vote on Kavanaugh should proceed “only after an appropriate background check into the allegations … is completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Carlson argues that a lifetime appointment to the high court “is simply too important to rush to a vote.”

Earlier this month, the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave its highest rating of “well-qualified” to Kavanaugh. Committee member Paul T. Moxley said in a statement to the Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh, “enjoys an excellent reputation for integrity and is a person of outstanding character.”

Kavanaugh and other had cited the ABA’s high regard of Kavanaugh as proof of his professional and moral bona fides.

Kavanaugh himself testified to his “unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “If you lived a good life people will recognize it like the American Bar Association has – the gold standard.”

On Friday morning, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley played down the significance of the ABA position. The Iowa Republican described the ABA as an interest group like any other, and said the letter represented the view of an individual, not necessarily the whole organization. “We’re not going to let them dictate our committee’s business,” Grassley said.

The committee voted later to send the nomination to the full Senate, though a Republican committee member, Jeff Flake of Arizona, is pushing for a one-week delay in the floor vote to allow for further investigation of Kavanaugh.

The Jesuits took an even stronger stance. Following Thursday’s testimony by Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, the magazine of the Jesuit religious order in the United States publicly withdrew its endorsement of Kavanaugh. An editorial in America Magazine declared that “this nomination is no longer in the best interests of the country.”

Kavanaugh was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School, a Jesuit high school, when the alleged assault took place.

The editorial doesn’t attempt to parse whether Kavanaugh’s or Ford’s testimony was more credible. But it concluded that “in a world that is finally learning to take reports of harassment, assault and abuse seriously,” the nomination must be abandoned.

“If Senate Republicans proceed with his nomination, they will be prioritizing policy aims over a woman’s report of an assault,” it states. “Were he to be confirmed without this allegation being firmly disproved, it would hang over his future decisions on the Supreme Court for decades and further divide the country.”

The magazine had previously given Kavanaugh a full-throated endorsement, stating that his addition to the Supreme Court may furnish the fifth vote needed to overrule Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The Catholic Church firmly opposes abortion.

That original endorsement editorial concluded that “anyone who recognizes the humanity of the unborn should support” Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The reversal is significant given that Kavanaugh has cited his Catholic faith and Jesuit education in defending himself against Ford’s accusations. In his opening statement Thursday, Kavanaugh twice referenced his years as a student at Georgetown Prep.