Senate Democrats say Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh will have to answer questions at his confirmation hearing this week about retired Judge Alex Kozinski, who left the bench last year after some former female law clerks accused him of misconduct.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, has said she wants to know if Judge Kavanaugh, who also clerked for the judge from 1991 to 1992, spotted any of the behavior, or tolerated the judge’s off-color comments.
Republicans counter by pointing out Judge Kavanaugh’s own female clerks have given him exceptional reviews, saying he’s been a forceful advocate for women in the legal professions. The GOP defenders also question how far Democrats are willing to taint Judge Kozinski’s former clerks by association.
That could be a problem given that group includes some prominent Democrat-backed figures, including Judge Paul J. Watford, who clerked for Judge Kozinski in 1994 and 1995 and who Democrats later put on the same 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals alongside Judge Kozinski in 2012.
President Barack Obama nominated another Kozinski clerk, Cheryl Krause, to be a judge on the 3rd Circuit appeals court in 2014.
Ms. Hirono, who was elected to the Senate in 2013, says those Democratic ties to Judge Kozinski won’t deter in her questions to Judge Kavanaugh.
“If President Trump would be so enlightened as to withdraw Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and nominate Judge Watford to the Supreme Court, I would certainly ask Judge Watford about his relationship with Judge Kozinski,” she said in a statement to The Washington Times.
In addition to clerking for Judge Kozinski, Judge Kavanaugh also clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy the man he’s been nominated to replace on the Supreme Court. Both Judge Kozinski and Judge Kavanaugh vetted Kennedy clerks a tie that Democrats say gives Judge Kavanaugh more than a passing acquaintance with Judge Kozinski, and makes questions about their relationship valid.
Conservatives pointed out Ms. Hirono refused to hold a courtesy meeting with Judge Kavanaugh and has already signaled she won’t vote for his confirmation.
Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judiciary Crisis Network, said Ms. Hirono’s line of planned questions is “cheap” and “baseless.”
“She also intends to baselessly ask him whether he has ever sexually harassed women, as she does all nominees,” Ms. Severino said in an op-ed for the National Review.
Ms. Severino said Judge Kavanaugh has been 3,000 miles away from the tainted Judge Kozinski for 25 years, and others who have been closer to him had no idea of the sexual harassment.
“Senator Hirono herself can tell you that, having served with former Senator Al Franken on the Senate Judiciary Committee for four years before allegations against him surfaced last December,” Ms. Severino said.
The Kozinski questions are part of a series of attacks Democrats have launched hoping to derail the judge’s nomination.
After most of the substantive attacks over the judge’s judicial record failed to gain traction, Democrats settled on attacking the process, saying there haven’t been enough documents from his background released.
Judge Kavanaugh worked for President George W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office from 2001 to 2003, and most of those documents are available, but his time working as the president’s staff secretary from 2003 to 2006 remains unavailable. Republicans have refused to request those documents, arguing they would total millions of pages.
“I’ve never had a hearing like this where documents are so hard to get,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.