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Trump picks conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh for US Supreme Court

US President Donald Trump picked 53-year-old Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Justice Anthony M Kennedy.

world Updated: Jul 10, 2018 23:50 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Brett Kavanaugh,US Supreme Court,Donald Trump
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House, Monday on July 9.(AP Photo)

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that Brett Kavanaugh will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Supreme Court, ending the hopes of Indian Americans that Amul Thapar would become the first judge from the community to make it to the top court.

Kavanaugh, 53, is currently a judge on the DC circuit court of appeals that has long been considered the second most powerful court in the country and a pool of reserves for justices to the Supreme Court.

Judge Kavanaugh had emerged a frontrunner in a race that had included Amul Thapar, a judge in the sixth circuit court of appeals, who had figured on the President’s starting shortlist of 25 names and had made it to the final rounds.

He was interviewed by the President the same weekend as Kavanaugh. Thapar got 45 minutes with Trump - the same as Kavanaugh and other frontrunners at that stage, the White House had said, sending a wave of excitement through Indian Americans who view Supreme Court justiceship as a significant representation of their growing clout in their adopted country.

The closest they came to achieving this goal was in 2016 when Sri Srinivasan, a colleague of Judge Kavanaugh’s on the DC circuit court of appeal, made it to the last-two face-off before then President Barack Obama for a position on the Supreme Court that had fallen vacant after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative jurist loved and admired by Republicans.

“Disappointed but not surprised,” said Shekhar Tiwari, chairman of the American Hindu Coalition, an advocacy group. “There will be another time as other positions fall vacant and we will be ready,” he added.

President Trump announced his pick in a widely anticipated address to the nation from the White House Monday evening. “Tonight, it is my honor and privilege to announce that I will nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court,” Trump said in a prime-time address to the nation before handing over the podium to the young judge to sell his nomination.

“If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind in every case, and I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American Rule of Law,” Kavanaugh said in his acceptance speech that was noted for this pitch about ‘open mind’ that might make the difference.

That will be a critically operative phrase for him to navigate the confirmation process. Unlike Kennedy, who was seen as the swing vote on the court tilting the balance one or the way as the rest eight were split equally between conservatives and liberals, Kavanaugh is expected to tilt the balance in the court in favor of conservatives decidedly and for a long time.

Democrats had announced their opposition to his nomination before President Trump’s announcement. The confirmation process is expected to be tough because Republicans have a wafer-thin majority in the senate and several of their members might cross over to the other side. At least two of them turned down White House invitation to attend the announcement ceremony as did all Democrats.

Democrats fear Kavanaugh’s presence on the court could tilt the balance irrevocably on defining social issues such as women’s right to abortion and gay rights. Democrats and pro-abortion activists are concerned that the Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, could be overturned.

First Published: Jul 10, 2018 07:38 IST