A panel of federal judges has dismissed all 83 ethics complaints lodged against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh for his behavior during his confirmation hearings, including allegations of accosting Democratic senators and making partisan statements as he grew increasingly irate about allegations of sexual assault.
It’s not that the panel of eight judges — convened by Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate — didn’t think the complaints were serious. They did. But the judges determined they don’t have authority over a sitting Supreme Court justice, perhaps due to an oversight in federal law.
The complaints — filed by lawyers, professors and otherwise concerned citizens — regarded allegations that Kavanaugh had been overly partisan in his responses during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings for his nomination in September. Some also alleged Kavanaugh had been needlessly disrespectful to certain senators and that he misled the panel about his work in the George W. Bush White House, where he was the White House staff secretary.
On Tuesday, the federal judges said they were obligated to dismiss the complaints because they don’t have any authority over the Supreme Court justices through the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, since the Constitution established the high courts and Congress, the lower courts.
“Lacking statutory authority to do anything more, the complaints must be dismissed because an intervening event — Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court — has made the complaints no longer appropriate for consideration under the Act,” the panel wrote in its final order Tuesday.
Kavanaugh’s questionable conduct during the hearings was fueled in large part by questions regarding allegations of sexual assault levied against him by Christine Blasey Ford, a California-based research psychologist. Ford said Kavanaugh had once pinned her to a bed and groped her during a drunken party when they were teenagers in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh said he considered those allegations a “calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.”
After those contentious hearings, however, Kavanaugh was still confirmed to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court in October.