As the key swing vote on the United States Supreme Court, you’d think Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh would take his job a bit more seriously.
But according to a revealing report from Mark Joseph Stern of Slate, Kavanaugh is actually considered to be an “intellectual lightweight” by his colleagues and they’re rapidly “losing patience” with him.
When he was nominated for the high court by failed former president Donald Trump, Kavanaugh was known very differently.
During his 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh styled himself as a brainy operator who combined intellectual firepower with affable moderation, in rhetoric if not in substance. He wanted to be the conservative whom liberals could respect—Justice Antonin Scalia without the volcanic temper—and the high-minded jurist who could sell right-wing legal theories to the public as common-sense constitutional principles.
But it turns out that almost no one respects Kavanaugh, no matter their political affiliation, and what he’s become is “a man with seemingly few fixed convictions and even fewer interesting things to say. To the extent that his colleagues think about him at all, they seem to view him as a fixer who can cobble together five votes for a diaphanous majority opinion that decides almost nothing.”
Translation: Brett Kavanaugh is a lightweight. Oh, and he likes beer. A lot. He made that clear during his confirmation hearings.
Kavanaugh’s written rulings have been threadbare, sometimes composed of a sentence or two, and often drawing scorn from his fellow justices, who have called him out in their own writings. Consider:
- In U.S. v. Texas, “Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote her own five-page concurrence picking apart Kavanaugh’s majority opinion.”
- Also in U.S. v. Texas, “(Neil) Gorsuch pointed out that Kavanaugh was ‘simply ignoring’ several important questions that undermined his logic.”
How much do his fellow justices dislike Kavanaugh? According to Stern, they can’t hide their contempt for their colleague.
Thomas, Barrett, and Gorsuch aren’t the only members of the court who are losing patience with Kavanaugh. Justice Elena Kagan memorably castigated him for treating “judging as scorekeeping,” whining about “how unfair it is” when he loses, and repeating the same bad arguments “at a higher volume.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor has repeatedly accused him of outright dishonesty by misrepresenting precedent and dangling false promises. In a fed-up dissent in just her first term, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson compared a Kavanaugh majority opinion to the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Alito’s rebuttal to Kavanaugh’s dissent in Sackett v. EPA consisted of exactly one sentence: Kavanaugh’s argument, Alito wrote, “cannot be taken seriously.”
Where does that leave the highest court in the land? Well, Kavanaugh can only be removed by impeachment, and there’s certainly no political will for that to happen, especially since no Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached and removed from office. Samuel Chase was impeached, but he remained on the court.
For now, Kavanaugh will remain the ultimate judicial lightweight who is seen as a joke by his colleagues on the bench. And in some ways, that’s a fitting punishment for his past sins.