Brett Michael Kavanaugh born February 12, 1965 is a United States circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He previously was White House Staff Secretary during the presidency of George W. Bush. Kavanaugh has been nominated to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
As an attorney working for Ken Starr, Kavanaugh played a lead role in drafting the Starr Report, which urged the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh led the investigation into the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster. After the 2000 U.S. presidential election (in which Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush campaign in the Florida recount), Kavanaugh joined Bush’s staff, where he led the administration’s effort to identify and confirm judicial nominees.
Kavanaugh was first nominated to the Court of Appeals by Bush in 2003. His confirmation hearings were contentious and stalled for three years over charges of partisanship. Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed in May 2006 after a series of negotiations between Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators.
On July 9, 2018, President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States following the vacancy created by the pending retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. Trump and his advisors reportedly viewed Kavanaugh as “a stalwart originalist”.
Kavanaugh was born on February 12, 1965, in Washington, D.C., and raised in Bethesda, Maryland, the son of Martha Gamble (Murphy) and Everett Edward Kavanaugh Jr. His mother was a history teacher at Woodson and McKinley high schools in Washington in the 1960s and 1970s. She earned her law degree from Washington College of Law in 1978 and served as a Maryland state Circuit Court Judge from 1995 to 2001. His father was the president of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association for two decades.
Kavanaugh attended Georgetown Preparatory School, where he was two years senior to Justice Neil Gorsuch. He then graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts and from Yale Law School with a Juris Doctor degree in 1990. There, he lived in a dilapidated group house with future-Judge James E. Boasberg and became a basketball partner of Professor George L. Priest, who was the sponsor of the school’s Federalist Society. He was a Notes Editor for the Yale Law Journal.
President George W. Bush first nominated Kavanaugh to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 25, 2003, to a vacancy created by Judge Laurence Silberman, who took senior status in November 2000. Kavanaugh’s nomination was stalled in the Senate for nearly three years. Democratic Senators accused him of being too partisan, with Senator Dick Durbin calling him the “Forrest Gump of Republican politics”. In 2003, the American Bar Association rated Kavanaugh as “well qualified”, but, after opposition from Senate Democrats, rated him in 2006 as only “qualified”. His nomination was opposed by People for the American Way.
The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary recommended confirmation on a 10–8 party-line vote on May 11, 2006, and Kavanaugh was thereafter confirmed to the court by the U.S. Senate on May 26, 2006, by a vote of 57–36. On June 1, 2006, he was sworn in by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he had previously clerked, during a special Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. Kavanaugh was the fourth judge nominated to the D.C. Circuit by Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate. Kavanaugh began hearing cases on September 11, 2006, and had his formal investiture on September 27, at the Prettyman Courthouse. His first published opinion was released on November 17, 2006.
In July 2007, Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin accused Kavanaugh of “misleading” the Senate Judiciary Committee during his nomination. Durbin and Leahy accused Kavanaugh of lying to them in his confirmation hearing when he denied being involved in formulating the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation policies in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. In 2002, Kavanaugh had met with other White House lawyers, and talked about whether or not the Supreme Court would approve of denying lawyers to prisoners detained as enemy combatants.
Kavanaugh had previously been a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and predicted in that meeting that Kennedy would not approve of denying legal counsel to those prisoners. Durbin said, “It appears that you misled me, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the nation.” This issue re-emerged in July 2018, as Kavanaugh was under consideration for a nomination to the Supreme Court, which Kavanaugh received.
On July 2, 2018, Kavanaugh was one of four U.S. Court of Appeals judges to receive a personal 45-minute interview by President Donald Trump as a potential replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy. On July 9, Trump announced his intent to nominate Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh had his first date with his future wife Ashley Estes, then–personal secretary to President George W. Bush, on September 10, 2001. They were among the occupants of the White House evacuated during the September 11 attacks.
In early 2006, Kavanaugh and his wife bought a $1.2-million home in Chevy Chase Section Five, Maryland. In 2018, Kavanaugh reported that he earned a $220,000 salary as a federal judge and $27,000 as a lecturer at Harvard Law School during the previous year.
Kavanaugh is an avid runner who has run the Boston Marathon twice. In 2010, at 45 years of age, he finished the course in 3:59:45, 1:53:53 behind the winner, and in 2015 he finished the race in 4:08:36.
Kavanaugh is a Catholic and serves as a regular lector at his Washington, D.C. church, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. He has helped serve meals to the homeless as part of church programs, and has tutored at the Washington Jesuit Academy, a Catholic private school in the District of Columbia.