BILLINGS- Along with the rest of the nation, Montanans are watching closely as Judge Brett Kavanaugh takes the gavel as the newest justice of the United States Supreme Court.
One day after he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a vote of 51-49, Kavanaugh was already at work securing his staff and looking ahead to a week full of highly visible hearings.
Dr. Jason Adkins, Montana State University Billings political science assistant professor, is watching Kavanaugh’s next moves closely and helping give others a better understanding of how the new justice will serve on the nation’s highest court.
On tap this week is a hearing on immigration and another hearing on mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders. Those hearings are a chance for the nation to see if Kavanaugh aligns with President Trump, Adkins said.
“He is not under the constraints he was when he was an appeals court judge. He is on his own,” said Adkins. Kavanaugh was a judge on the Washington, D.C. court of appeals before his confirmation.
And by Sunday, Kavanaugh was already at work securing his staff.
“He hired his clerks and he has four female clerks and an all-female staff, which is a first for a Supreme Court justice. And he starts hearing cases this week,” said Dr. Adkins.
The nation was rocked for weeks over the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh brought forth by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
In response to the allegations, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford, who alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. Kavanaugh denied the allegation, while she stood by her testimony.
The committee paused the nomination process for a week so the FBI could investigate. Afterward, Republicans declared that the FBI had not found any corroborating witnesses, while Democrats complained the FBI didn’t look hard or long enough.
During that, Kavanaugh showed the nation a lot of personality with testimony accompanied by anger and emotion.
Adkins said many will be watching to see if those emotions come out in his rulings.
“What’s his demeanor on the bench? How does he question people who come before the court to argue cases?” said Adkins. “So that’s something I think people will be on the lookout for.”
Many are focusing on the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision and wondering how Kavanaugh will rule should the issue of abortion come before the Supreme Court.
Reporting by Andrea Lutz for MTN News