Supreme Court: No, the ends don’t justify the means

Note: This letter was sent on Sept 26, 2018, to Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Michael Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Sasse* (R-NE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and John Kennedy (R-LA), all of whom are members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary; to Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Corker (R-TN); and copied to Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and to Representative Greg Walden (R-OR2). *Condensed letter, due to 2,500 characters limit.

Dear Senator:

Republicans want to take advantage of holding both the presidency and the majority in the Senate to tilt the Supreme Court towards a conservative interpretation of the law.

As a non-affiliated voter, I would strongly prefer a politically independent Supreme Court, which is also how I read the intent of the separation of powers in the US Constitution. But I understand your motivation, as I would if the shoe was on the other foot, with Democrats pushing for a more liberal court.

What I cannot accept is the view that the ends justify the means. Lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices require careful and thorough vetting. The drive to confirm the current nominee before the mid-term elections is hurting due process, and that is an inadmissible breach of ethics—regardless of the offending party.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be the first to ask the Senate to slow down and do its homework. That he has made no such request is disheartening: If confirmed through a rushed process, he will forever be tarnished by an asterisk at least as large as the one that diminishes the moral authority of Justice Clarence Thomas.

As an American citizen, I should be able to trust the White House to have properly vetted the candidate. I should be able to trust the Senate to hold rigorous, objective, hearings. I should be able to count on Republicans and Democrats to rise above partisanship, to assess whether the candidate should be entrusted with a lifetime, high-impact mandate. Unfortunately, none of this rings true.

I ask that you honor the memory of late Senator McCain (a complex, fair-minded conservative whom I highly respected) in ensuring that due process is followed. Specifically, please:

  • Ensure that the FBI investigation on Judge Kavanaugh is re-opened, with an expanded focus that includes the allegations of sexual abuse made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and by any other alleged victims or witnesses deemed credible.
  • Ensure that tomorrow’s (Sep 27) hearings of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh are rigorous, objective, and fair to both, and are followed (after a thorough FBI investigation) by hearings involving other relevant alleged victims or witnesses.
  • Ensure that all records on Kavanaugh’s service in the George W. Bush administration are released (with bare-minimum redactions, for national security only), to allow the Senate to be adequately informed before considering advice and consent.

I have no preconceived notion on the guilt or innocence of Dr. Kavanaugh, regarding the sexual abuse allegations. I believe in the principle of innocence until proof of guilt. But I also believe that credible alleged victims (of which Dr. Ford is an example) should be given the time and conditions to be heard, with the prior support of an objective federal investigation.

Whether abusive teenager behavior would, if proven, disqualify Judge Kavanaugh, might be arguable. However, if the adult Kavanaugh proclaimed innocence when the teenager Kavanaugh was guilty, he is unambiguously not qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.

Delaying the confirmation of a qualified judge has political risks, as suggested by the case of Judge Merrick Garland (who, you may remember, never even received a hearing). But such risk pales in comparison with the tragedy of a non-deserving justice being confirmed through a rushed process. Please act ethically, not politically. This country deserves it, and you owe it to yourself.

Respectfully, your fellow American

Antonio Baptista


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