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U.S. President Donald Trump’s Unexpected Supreme Court Pick

Democrats worried Kavanaugh’s solidly conservative record as an appeals court judge in the Washington, D.C., circuit would threaten landmark rulings on abortion, gay marriage and other progressive causes.

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The Supreme Court building in Washington, Feb. 13, 2016. VOA

President Donald Trump has boasted that adding two conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court is among his biggest achievements.

However, one of Trump’s picks hasn’t quite followed the script.

Since being sworn in last October, Justice Brett Kavanaugh has defied the expectations of some by occasionally breaking with the court’s conservative bloc to join liberals such as Justice Stephen Breyer.

An analysis of Kavanaugh’s 22 early decisions shows that he’s stuck close to Chief Justice John Roberts, who has been gradually carving a more moderate path during the Trump era.

“The expectation was that he would probably be in the same or similar voting sections with his conservative colleagues more often than he would be with his liberal colleagues,” said Adam Feldman, a court watcher who runs the blog Empirical SCOTUS.

FILE - Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018. voa

Feldman, who conducted the analysis, said “the fact that [Kavanaugh] joined with the liberals in a higher percentage of decisions, in total, this term is somewhat surprising.”

To be sure, it’s too early to draw conclusions based on such a small number of cases. Still, conservatives are less effusive of Kavanaugh’s record compared with Trump’s other pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Gorsuch is often compared to the late Antonin Scalia, the court’s conservative intellectual anchor whom he replaced in 2017, while Kavanaugh veers to the right of Anthony Kennedy, the centrist former justice whose seat he occupies.

FILE - Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch joins other justices of the U.S. Supreme Court for an official group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, June 1, 2017.
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch joins other justices of the U.S. Supreme Court for an official group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, June 1, 2017.. VOA

“Justice Kavanaugh, so far has been cautious in the sense that he usually almost always joins the majority,” said Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice.

“He’s voted the same as Roberts in the vast majority of cases,” Levey said, “and Roberts has slowly been drifting towards the center.”

Last summer, Kennnedy, a Republican appointee who had cast the decisive vote in a number of consequential cases in recent years, announced his retirement. Trump named Kavanaugh, who like Gorsuch had once been a law clerk for Kennedy, as his replacement.

Democrats worried Kavanaugh’s solidly conservative record as an appeals court judge in the Washington, D.C., circuit would threaten landmark rulings on abortion, gay marriage and other progressive causes.

The court has yet to decide more than half of the cases it has heard this term, which ends in June. Pending matters include such controversial issues as partisan gerrymandering of congressional district boundaries and whether to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census.

‘Comfort’ on the bench

Kavanaugh entered the court amid heated allegations that he had sexually assaulted a woman while in high school. He strenuously denied the accusations, and a divided Senate eventually confirmed him by one of the narrowest margins for a Supreme Court justice in history.

But if Kavanaugh was rattled by the experience, he didn’t show it on the day he joined the court last October. The justices heard arguments in two cases about a little-known law that stipulates steep sentencing to people who have committed certain offenses in the past.

Jeffrey Fisher, a special counsel at the O’Melveny law firm and a professor at Stanford Law School, argued one of the cases. He said he was struck by how at ease Kavanaugh appeared, sitting next to liberal Justice Elena Kagan, as he has every day since.

“You would never know whether he had just been confirmed 99 to nothing in the Senate or what we ended up having,” said Fisher, who has argued 38 cases in the Supreme Court, including three this term. “His comfort with the legal issues showed through right away.”

By all accounts, that level of comfort has continued. So too has Kavanaugh’s budding alliance with Roberts.

Conservative and liberal leanings

In December, Kavanaugh joined the chief and the four liberal justices in declining to review lower-court rulings that blocked efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which supports abortion rights.

In a February, in a case known as Garza v. Idaho, Kavanaugh and Roberts joined the liberal wing to vote in favor of an Idaho inmate’s right to appeal even after he waived the right.

FILE - U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts attends an event at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, July 26, 2017.
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts attends an event at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, July 26, 2017. VOA

And in a March, Kavanaugh voted with the liberal to rule that manufacturers of asbestos-dependent equipment used on Navy ships had a duty to warn their users.

On more contentious issues, however, Kavanaugh has aligned with the conservative majority.

In March, he joined a 5-4 conservative ruling that the government could hold indefinitely immigrants who have completed sentences for crimes that subject them to deportation. This month, he joined them again to reject a death row inmate’s claim that Missouri’s execution method inflicts unconstitutionally cruel pain.

There is talk that the entente between Kavanaugh and Roberts could foil a rightward move of the court. But Levey said Kavanaugh and Roberts have their own reasons for being cautious.

Also Read: Scientists Facilitate The Regulatory Process For Herbal Drugs

“Roberts because he’s the chief justice and he wants the court to be seen as not extreme, and Kavanaugh because he’s new on the bench,” Levey said.

Fisher added that if anything, the court has moved incrementally to the right.

“And the reason I would say that is that we haven’t yet seen Justice Kavanaugh cast a deciding vote with the liberals,” Fisher said, “which is something Justice Kennedy used to do from time to time.” (VOA)

Next Story

Facebook Working to Re-elect Donald Trump, Says Billionaire Philanthropist Geroge Soros

"As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear."

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Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

The billionaire philanthropist George Soros has slammed Facebook, accusing the social networking giant of helping to re-elect Donald Trump in the 2020 US election.

“Facebook will work to re-elect Trump and Trump will protect Facebook,” the 89-year-old said during a speech at a dinner hosted by his non-profit Open Society Foundation at Davos on Thursday, reports Politico.

“It makes me very concerned about the outcome of 2020,” Soros added.

Reacting to his outburst, a Facebook spokesperson said: “This is just plain wrong”.

At the dinner speech, Soros called Trump “the ultimate narcissist”, and Xi Jinping a “dictator”, while praising Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Soros also announced he will launch “the most important project of my life” — a $1 billion investment in “critical thinking” via a new network of colleges.

Judge, Trump, Moral
FILE – President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, Nov. 4, 2019. VOA

Earlier this month, Facebook Vice President Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth claimed that it was the social networking giant that got Donald Trump elected as the US President in 2016 because “he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser”.

In a memo obtained by The New York Times, the key Facebook executive in the same vein suggested that the platform with over 2.45 billion monthly active users should not use its enormous reach to block Trump”s reelection in 2020.

“He (Trump) didn’t get elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica. He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period”, said Bosworth who runs Facebook”s hardware group.

“Trump just did unbelievable work,” Bosworth wrote.

Also Read: Amazon Asks Judge to Block Microsoft from Pentagon Project

“As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.”

Facebook also announced it will show fewer political ads to people on its platform and Instagram, starting with the US which faces Presidential elections this year, but won’t ban or limit those as Twitter has already done and Google to some extent. (IANS)