UPDATED: This article was updated on Oct. 9. at 12:15 a.m.
Twenty Beasley School of Law professors signed a letter arguing United States Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh showed a lack of judicial temperament in his Senate confirmation hearing on Sept. 27 and should not be considered for the Supreme Court.
The letter, now signed by at least 2,400 law professors from universities across the country, was presented to the Senate last Thursday. His confirmation was approved in the Senate by a 50-48 vote.
The vote was contentious due to questions raised about Kavanaugh’s fitness to be a Supreme Court justice, including criticism of his temperament, potential political biases and sexual misconduct allegations made against him.
The law professors argued Kavanaugh’s fitness to fill retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s position as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The letter cites Federalist 78, in which founding father Alexander Hamilton describes the level of integrity and objectivity Supreme Court justices must uphold.
The letter asserted that Kavanaugh does not show “the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land.”
Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday by Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.
Palo Alto University clinical psychology professor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982. The FBI carried out an investigation that ended on Wednesday, unable to produce corroborating evidence of Ford’s allegations. Kavanaugh asserted that the Senate’s inquiry into sexual assault allegations against him was “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” by Senate Democrats.
The law professors’ letter focuses on Kavanaugh’s response to the allegations.
“Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators,” the letter reads.
Law professors Sarah Katz, David Kairys and Pamela Bookman were the first three Temple professors to sign their names to the letter last Wednesday. Katz said the letter was passed on in several legal professional circles she belongs to.
“What I’ve been talking about with my students is this is a job interview and if I went into any job interview and cried and screamed and raged and accused people of conspiracy, it’s unlikely that I would be hired, no matter what the context is,” Katz said.
“I really bristle at the notion that, ‘Doesn’t he deserve a presumption of innocence?’” Katz added. “Yes, if he were facing criminal charges, and maybe he will, who knows? But that’s not what’s on the table here.”
Law professor Susan DeJarnatt, who signed the petition last week, does not plan on discussing Kavanaugh’s confirmation in her law classes until next semester. She wrote in an email to The Temple News that she wants to remain sensitive to students’ differing political perspectives and avoid triggering those impacted by the confirmation.
“I do not want any of my students to feel marginalized or attacked — either because they have a different view of the confirmation process or because they may have personal histories of sexual assault that has made this process personally painful,” DeJarnatt wrote.
Jack E. Feinberg Professor of Litigation Kathryn Stanchi is a principal organizer of The U.S. Feminist Judgments Project, a collaborative of more than 100 feminist law professors to rewrite legal decisions from their perspectives. Stanchi said she believes Ford’s allegations and the testimony will be “a shadow that hovers over Justice Kavanaugh’s tenure.”
“For most of us run-of-the-mill lawyers, our words and our credibility is everything,” Stanchi said. “When we walk into a courtroom, or when we go to make a deal with another lawyer, if something about us enters the room before we do, that can mean we lose before we even get in there and open our mouths. I’ve already talked to [my students] about that, and I’m sure I will do it more.”
Two votes from the confirmation were withdrawn. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, withdrew her “no” vote as a courtesy to Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, who would have voted “yes” if he were present in the Senate on Saturday.
All votes except Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-West Virginia, were along party lines, with Republicans for and Democrats against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Protests ensued Saturday outside the Supreme Court and Capitol and in cities across the U.S. following Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The New York Times reported that Capitol Police arrested 164 people for unlawful demonstration in the Washington D.C. protests.
The Temple College Democrats held a rally on Sept. 16 against Kavanaugh’s nomination before Ford’s allegations were made. President Christina Borst said having a conservative majority in the Supreme Court could threaten women’s rights, affirmative action, environmental justice and LGBTQ rights.
“The thing that struck me most [in the hearing] was that familiar feeling of not being taken seriously just because you’re a woman,” Borst said. “That will be the thing that drives people, women especially, to the polls, regardless or not if there was any corroborating evidence.”
Temple College Republicans President Chris Smith said he is satisfied with Kavanaugh’s confirmation and confident in his qualifications and record as a judge. He thought the Senate’s confirmation process was not fair to Ford and Kavanaugh.
“[Temple Law professors] have a right to their opinion and a right to display their concerns, but if you look at his overall record, [Kavanaugh’s] temperament has never been a problem in court,” Smith said. “Judging his entire character based on this one time of extreme circumstance… You can’t judge his entire professional demeanor off of this one occurrence.”