Amid the sexual assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, there have been renewed calls for the Senate to delay its vote on the nominee. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a statement on Sunday in which she expressed her “support” for Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who only went public with her accusations because she felt “her civic duty outweighed her desire for privacy.” Feinstein urged the Senate to let the FBI conduct an investigation into the allegations before moving forward. Her statement quickly drew criticism from Kavanaugh supporters, who described it as a “Hail Mary pass” and questioned the timing of Feinstein’s decision to release Ford’s letter describing her accusations.
Opinion has been sharply divided on how the Judiciary Committee should deal with this new development. David Frum, writing in the Atlantic, urges a delay because the Senate does not have the proper resources to conduct a thorough investigation into the issue. When it come to dealing with the assault allegations, he wrote that the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are “the wrong men in the wrong job at the wrong time.” Kavanaugh supporters, by contrast, believe the Democrats are using the accusations as a way to “run out the clock,” hopefully delaying the vote until after the midterm elections. Some are predicting that a process that seemed fast-tracked to place Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court by the opening of its new term on October 1 now may end with Kavanaugh never making it to the Court.
On Monday, the Senate announced that it would continue the nomination hearings the following Monday, September 24, when it planned to hear from both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford (click here for a more detailed discussion of the upcoming hearings). Blasey has now indicated she wants an FBI investigation to be completed before she testifies. Kavanaugh has “categorically and unequivocally” denied the allegations as “completely false.”
Those who have demanded a thorough investigation into Ford’s accusations have warned that the process should learn from the experience of the Clarence Thomas hearings of 1991 and avoid the kind of vilification of the accuser that occured then. Anita Hill, who came forward with allegations of sexual assault against Thomas (click here for a refresher on those events), has spoken out, discussing how the Senate might learn from the past and do a better job handling these hearings . So far, the White House has seemed open to these kinds of recommendations. Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway said that Ford “should not be insulted, and she should not be ignored.” President Donald Trump, while reiterating his support for Judge Kavanaugh, also remarked that if Ford “ makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting, and we’ll have to make a decision.”
This post was written by ISCOTUS Fellow Zoe Arthurson-McColl, Chicago-Kent Class of 2020, and edited by ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator Matthew Webber, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and ISCOTUS Co-Director and Chicago-Kent Faculty Member Christopher W. Schmidt.