14 Arizona State University law professors from sign letter opposing Kavanaugh

As of noon Friday, 14 Arizona State University law professors had signed a letter urging the U.S. Senate to not confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been publicly accused of sexual assault.

The letter, which has at least 2,400 signatures from professors across the country, was presented to the U.S. Senate on Thursday and published Wednesday by the New York Times.

The professors argue that Kavanaugh “exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry” and responded to questions in his Sept. 27 hearing “in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators.”

“We have differing views about the other qualifications of Judge Kavanaugh. But we are united, as professors of law and scholars of judicial institutions, in believing that he did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land,” the letter says.

The list of names from Arizona State University include: Angela M. Banks, Paul Bender, Daniel Bodansky, Charles Calleros, M. Robert Dauber, Alyssa Dragnich, Betsy Grey, David Kader, Orde Kittrie, Amy Langenfeld, Trevor Reed, Joshua S. Sellers, Bijal Shah and Justin Weinstein-Tull. 

Weeks ago, Kavanaugh’s confirmation seemed all but settled until Dr. Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school in 1982. 

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Friday they will vote to confirm Kavanaugh, so it appears likely that he will sit on the Supreme Court after an expected final confirmation vote Saturday.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., was another closely watched potential swing vote, but announced Friday he would vote for Kavanaugh barring any “big changes.” 

Collins said in a speech on the Senate floor that while she believed Christine Blasey Ford, who alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, the allegations “fail to meet the ‘more likely than not’” standard. She said she believes voting against Kavanaugh without witnesses or proof could start a “dangerous” precedent. 

Bender, a professor of law and dean emeritus for the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, said he signed the letter in opposition to Kavanaugh because he stated that “he saw this as a political battle.”

That gave Bender pause about Kavanaugh’s personality.

“People were out to get him and he was gonna take revenge on them,” Bender said. “What goes around comes around. It’s that statement by somebody that seems, to me, disqualifying to somebody who wants to be a judge.”

Bender, who was President Bill Clinton’s principal deputy U.S. solicitor general from 1993 to 1997, added that it was “too dangerous” to put someone like Kavanaugh on the court who has an “agenda of revenge.”

“Every time he decides a case in a way that say, Planned Parenthood, doesn’t like, they’ll say, ‘Oh he’s only doing it because he’s out to get us,’” Bender added.  

“It puts everything the court does under a cloud of suspicion and doubt and I don’t think that’s a good thing for our country.”

Although Kavanaugh will probably become a Supreme Court justice, Bender isn’t sure his confirmation to the Supreme Court will cause the legitimacy of the institution to erode further, given its increasing politicization in recent years.

Calleros, the Alan A. Matheson Fellow in Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, declined to comment but said he stands behind the letter. 

Dragnich, associate clinical professor of law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College also declined to comment. 

The other professors from Arizona State University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

Bijal Shah, an associate professor law at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law who signed the letter, said she didn’t think the letter was particularly partisan.

It didn’t say anything about the credibility of Ford’s testimony; rather, it said Kavanaugh did not display proper temperament, she said. 

She added that she thought people were concerned that if Kavanaugh wasn’t able to withstand questions during his confirmation hearings, they would question what he will do when he gets to the high court. 

During an emotional hearing last Thursday, Ford said she was “100 percent” confident that Kavanaugh was the one who had tried to remove her clothing as he grinded against her at a house party when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh angrily denied the allegations at the hearing. 

The FBI reopened its investigation into Kavanaugh’s background and the GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said the report shows “no corroboration” of the allegations of sexual misconduct. Democrats have disputed the report and have complained that the report has not been made public. 

 

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