Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court Saturday solidifies a conservative majority on the nation’s highest bench — and his influence could soon be felt.
The embattled jurist may don his black robe as soon as Tuesday.
The Supreme Court convened its 2018-2019 session last month as the bitter back-and-forth over Kavanaugh’s appointment raged on Capitol Hill.
While there are no major blockbusters on the horizon, the cases on the upcoming docket include fights over double jeopardy, property rights, the future of the Endangered Species Act and the question of whether to execute a death row inmate suffering from dementia who can’t remember committing the crime.
Kavanaugh critics contend that one upcoming case, Gamble vs. U.S., could affect special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The case deals with double jeopardy and could determine whether President Trump would be free to pardon any associates charged with federal crimes without fear that they will face consequences from state prosecutors
Some lower court cases that appear to be headed to the Supreme Court deal directly with Trump administration policy.
One involves Trump’s attempt to phase out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which granted tentative legal status to children brought into the country illegally. Another challenges the Commerce Department’s decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.
In another possible Supreme Court case, lawyers for transgender members of the military are fighting the White House’s order restricting their ability to serve.
Other cases currently working their way through lower courts involve whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects gay employees from workplace discrimination and gerrymandering of congressional district lines.
Kavanaugh’s opponents were keenly interested in whether he’d vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
While President Trump vowed to appoint judges who would seek to overturn Roe, Kavanaugh tried to ease fears during his confirmation hearings by telling lawmakers the case “is an important precedent of the Supreme Court that has been reaffirmed many times.”
Anthony Kennedy, who was Kavanaugh’s predecessor on the Supreme Court, disappointed conservatives in his unwillingness to vote to overturn Roe.
But Kavanaugh’s track record as an appeals court judge makes clear he will not fill Kennedy’s role as a moderate swing vote who forged middle-of-the-road positions on Roe and other issues.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday he opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination because the candidate was evasive in his answers on key topics during his confirmation hearings.
Schumer said Kavanaugh’s views were “deeply at odds with the progress America has made in the last century of jurisprudence and at odds with what most Americans believe.”
His deeply partisan rant while defending himself against sexual assault allegations also raised eyebrows. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh forcefully denied the accusations and placed blame for the tumult surrounding his nomination on Democrats and the Clinton family.
It also remains unclear what kind of relationship Kavanaugh will have with his fellow justices once he joins the bench.
Associate Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan appeared to take a swipe at her soon-to-be colleague, warning that the high court may lose legitimacy without a swing vote justice.
She praised Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Anthony Kennedy as centrists, and said that over the last 30 years the court has always had a justice “who found the center” or who was a bit ideologically unpredictable.