Kavanaugh dodges consequences for unethical behavior yet again


Dozens of complaints against Justice Brett Kavanaugh were dismissed yesterday because the judicial ethics rules don't apply to Supreme Court justices.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh has again escaped any consequences for his behavior. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which was tasked with investigating 83 misconduct claims against Kavanaugh, just dismissed all those complaints without taking any action.

Earlier this year, Kavanaugh had a complete meltdown in front of the Senate when he was asked to address Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's accusation that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. After additional women came forward, Kavanaugh was the subject of an investigation so nominal as to be laughable. Now, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts going out of his way to protect him, Kavanaugh will never face any discipline or sanctions.

During Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing and the investigation that followed the hearing, dozens of people filed complaints under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. Among other things, they alleged that Kavanaugh had lied to the Senate during confirmation proceedings in 2004, 2006, and 2018, that he treated members of the Senate Judiciary Committee disrespectfully, and that he made partisan statements that demonstrated bias.

There's no question Kavanaugh was disrespectful and partisan during his confirmation hearings. He accused women who came forward with allegations of exacting revenge on behalf of the Clintons. He snapped at Sen. Amy Klobuchar for asking him about his drinking. His poor behavior during the hearing was visible to the entire world.

None of that matters now, thanks to Roberts' sleight-of-hand. Complaints about Kavanaugh were filed in late September, at which point Brett Kavanaugh was still a federal judge rather than a Supreme Court justice. Roberts didn't do anything about those complaints, however, until after Kavanaugh was confirmed, at which point he transmitted the complaints to the 10th Circuit for it to address.

There's just one catch: Supreme Court justices aren't subject to the rules for judicial conduct. So, because Kavanaugh is now seated on the Supreme Court, the 10th Circuit ruled that although the allegations are serious, it doesn't have the authority to investigate any of the complaints. This is both in spite of the fact that the complaints were filed at a time when Kavanaugh was still subject to the rules, and in spite of the fact that Chief Justice Roberts deliberately withheld those complaints until Kavanaugh was no longer subject to those rules.

A few weeks ago, Roberts received accolades for a very mild rebuke of a Trump statement about "Obama judges," stating that the judiciary was an independent body. But Roberts' behavior here shows that he is more than willing to compromise the integrity of the judiciary in order to achieve partisan goals: Kavanaugh got seated, the complaints got buried, and Roberts got a Supreme Court with one more ultra-conservative justice.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.