President Trump announced he is nominating Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court.
Kavanaugh, a graduate of Yale Law School, is an experienced judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
“Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law,” Trump said in a July 9 televised event at the White House.
Prior to his nomination to the Court of Appeals, Kavanaugh held several roles in the White House during President George W. Bush’s administration, including senior associate counsel and assistant to the president.
Since then, Kavanaugh has taught law students at some of the country’s top institutions, including Harvard, Yale and Georgetown universities. He is a family man and an active member of the Maryland community where he now lives. As the father of two, he coaches basketball at his daughters’ school. He runs marathons and volunteers at charity organizations in Washington.
— Judicial Network (@judicialnetwork) July 10, 2018
“My judicial philosophy is straightforward,” Kavanaugh said in his remarks at the White House event. “A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
Kavanaugh was nominated to fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced in June his retirement from the court.
The confirmation process
Supreme Court nominees, like Cabinet appointments, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Before that vote, nominees appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and answer questions about their careers, legal philosophies and commitment to upholding the U.S. Constitution.
The full Senate then considers the Judiciary Committee report before voting on the nomination. A majority vote of the Senate is required to confirm the appointment.
Why does the U.S. do it this way?
Supreme Court justices — like most other federal judges — are appointed and serve “during good Behaviour,” the Constitution says, which means for life unless removed by the Senate for illegal or improper conduct.
Supreme Court justices serve for life to help maintain their independence. Unlike the president and members of Congress (who are elected and answerable to the people they serve), justices answer to the Constitution and laws of the United States. Life tenure helps justices make decisions that are legally correct but politically unpopular.
The Constitution empowers the president, who is elected by the entire nation, to nominate justices, and requires Senate confirmation to uphold the checks and balances between the branches of government and to ensure that nominees have broad appeal.
This system encourages high-quality, independent justices.
This is the second person that President Trump has selected for the Supreme Court. In 2017 Trump nominated — and the U.S. Senate confirmed — Neil Gorsuch, an experienced federal judge, to fill a vacancy on the court.
Freelance writer Maeve Allsup contributed to this article.