After serving as a deputy to Ken Starr, Brett Kavanaugh went into private practice. During that time he spoke to CNN on a range of topics including abortion restrictions, judicial nominations and Bush v. Gore.
In June 2000, Kavanaugh talked about a recently decided case that struck down a state ban on a procedure sometimes called partial birth abortion. Justice Anthony Kennedy, even though he had voted before to uphold Roe, was in dissent in this case. Kavanaugh noted how abortion, so many years after two landmark opinions, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, still played such a central role at the court.
Later on in the conversation about abortion restrictions, Kavanaugh nodded to the fact that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Ronald Reagan nominee, had sided with the liberals in the case. Further, he suggested that presidents sometimes choose “consensus” candidates instead of more conservative nominees who could raise a fight in Congress.
His comments are interesting because they give insight to his thought process on judicial nominations just before he would enter the White House Counsel’s Office and work at nominating more conservative judges.
Kavanaugh also spoke broadly about the Supreme Court, suggesting that the court under Chief Justice William Rehnquist had not gone as far in overruling landmark opinions as conservatives might have hoped and expected when Rehqnuist became chief justice in 1986.
For instance, in Dickerson v. United States, the court struck down an act of Congress that had attempted to narrow the scope of the Miranda rule in federal cases. Rehnquist wrote for the court that Miranda, as a constitutional ruling, could not be narrowed by Congress.
Kavanaugh’s comments on abortion restrictions and judicial nominations set the conservative tone that followed him the rest of his career.
Bush v. Gore
Along with dozens of other conservative lawyers, Kavanaugh volunteered to help George W. Bush during the 2000 election dispute that landed before the Supreme Court.
After oral arguments in December, Kavanaugh did an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer trying to read the tea leaves during the argument. As a former clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, he foreshadowed the fact that Kennedy was troubled by the arguments put forth by the Democrats.