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Cousin: ‘have no fear’ of Kavanaugh

September 3, 2018

LONG BEACH — A local woman who’s followed his career closely says America and Michigan City will be getting a great Supreme Court justice if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed.

Of course, Donna Kavanagh is a bit biased, seeing that President Donald Trump’s choice for the high court is her second cousin. She’s preparing now to head to Washington, D.C., to attend his confirmation hearings.

“I’ve met him off and on through the years,” Kavanagh said. “He’s kind of a legend in the family. He is a very balanced and fair-minded person, and I just pray that they don’t drag this on for three years.”

She’s referring to Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S Court of Appeals in 2003, when political wrangling left President George W. Bush’s nominee in limbo until 2006. That’s when Sen. John McCain led a movement that finally got the Senate to approve the nomination.

“He will not be the GOP demon that everyone is making him out to be,” Kavanagh said. “He is fair and not a partisan kind of guy. I’m a Democrat and I can say that.”

In fact, the only negative about Kavanaugh, she said, was that his side of the family added the letter “U” to their name, though that happened generations back.

The family were Irish immigrant to New York City. Donna Kavanagh said her great-grandparents took in a homeless family in Brooklyn and when the parents died, they adopted the children. They were Brett Kavanaugh’s ancestors, she said.

“I’ve never been sure why they dropped the ‘U.’ Sometimes when families married off and moved on they changed the name, or it might just have been a census taker who was not 100 percent accurate.”

The cousins didn’t grow up together but kind of followed each other vicariously through the years, she said.

While Donna, whose family moved to Michigan City when she was 3, was attending Catholic University of America in D.C., Brett was going to nearby Georgetown Prep, an exclusive private school “for up and coming children of privilege,” she said.

They met when he was attending Yale and she had moved to Connecticut to get married.

“We met briefly,” she said. The next time they met, “He was living in New Haven with a bunch of other male law students in this dilapidated group home. It was like a frat house atmosphere, but I remember he was very nice, kind and considerate.”

Kavanagh returned to Michigan City, where she worked in radio and other media, while her cousin went on to be a clerk for the Supreme Court – he was there during the Clinton impeachment proceedings; and then to a law practice where he worked on the Elian Gonzalez case, trying to keep the Cuban boy with family in Florida.

He was also White House counsel during the Enron scandal in 2001, and “Brett helped get them,” Donna said.

Another story she recalls, “because it’s become a piece of family lore,” is that Brett and his future wife, Ashley Estes, “went on their first date on the evening before the 9/11 attacks. He was working at the White House and so was she,” Donna said. “They’re married with two kids now, but talk about a first date to remember.”

Through the years, they have kept in contact, though she has not spoken to him since his nomination.

“He’s been a little busy with meeting senators and making the rounds,” she said. “I’ve left him several messages, and hope to meet up with him during the nomination proceedings.”

Kavanagh says no matter what people might hear on TV or online, “Americans and Michigan City should have no fear” about him as a judge.

“He’s not going to be a monster. He’s not going to destroy Roe v. Wade – he has said it’s the law and he respects the law – and he’s not going to destroy the environment and civil rights. All this fear surrounding him is because of Trump.”

Kavanagh also knew Trump as a child in New York, and said he’s “not the big bad wolf everybody thinks he is. He really does care about America.”

But no matter what you think of the president, she said her cousin is his own man.

“Brett does not sit back and follow partisan politics. He works hard and he cares,” she said.

She said caring about others is a family trait.

“We’re a very caring clan. We try to think through all aspects of an issue. We think in grey, not in black and white. What are the facts? That is what Brett Kavanaugh would want to know before making a decision.”

Her cousin won’t be her only tie to the Supreme Court if he’s confirmed. Donna Kavanagh grew up in Long Beach right down the road from Justice John Roberts.

“I grew up with him,” she said. “His best friend was Andy McKenna Jr., who was our next-door neighbor. The kids used to ride their bikes and up and down those hills at Stop 21, and it seemed like every time a kid fell, there was John Roberts to pick them up.

“He lived about a half mile away, but people were a lot closer then, so we all knew each other.”

While she is proud to know Justice Roberts, she is absolutely thrilled about the possibility of a Justice Kavanaugh, even with the “U.”

“Brett Kavanaugh is the perfect choice for a justice,” she said. “He’s not partisan and he’s not a hack. The American people and the people of Michigan City will get a great justice.

“Our family is very proud of him, and we know he will make a fantastic justice.”

What Indiana senators say about Kavanaugh

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R): “I had the opportunity to sit down with Judge Kavanaugh in my office last month, and he struck me as a man of great character and integrity. He answered questions directly. He spoke forthrightly. He demonstrated, at once, a strong intellect and a deep humility. I look forward to watching Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. After conducting a thorough and objective review of his nomination, I am confident that Judge Kavanaugh will be an excellent addition to our nation’s highest court.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D): “I had a wide-ranging conversation and productive meeting with Judge Kavanaugh. This was an important opportunity to sit down and talk in-depth about his record; experience working in the Bush Administration and serving on the federal bench; and views on the role of the Supreme Court as well as on a range of issues including precedent, health care, and judicial independence. Hoosiers rightly expect careful and thoughtful consideration of a nomination to our nation’s highest court, and I plan to keep doing my homework and make a decision sometime after Kavanaugh’s committee confirmation hearing.”

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