By CUNY Law School Professor Julie Goldscheid
Yesterday’s hearing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court was a stunning reflection of our polarization as a country, and of how far we have to go to fully acknowledge the reality and impact of sexual violence.
The contrast between the detailed, reflective and consistent testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and the hostile and non-responsive answers from Judge Kavanaugh was striking. It was particularly disheartening to see the nominee and many of the senators display bullying and hostile behavior that mirrors the very type of aggression associated with the sexual violence at issue in the allegations.
The focus, in both the questioning and subsequent commentary, on who was telling the “truth” also is misguided in that it treats the nomination process as if it was a criminal proceeding, rather than a consideration of the candidate’s qualifications for a seat on the highest court in the country.
While the committee chair claimed to seek to give Dr. Ford an opportunity to be heard, the nominee and the republican senators essentially ignored her testimony, and simply proceeded to attack the democrats with fact-free allegations.
The committee’s refusal to allow any additional witnesses bolsters the need for a full investigation, in this case, by the FBI, before any final vote is taken. The allegations of sexual misconduct here received even less consideration that those in the hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas 27 years ago, which themselves have been roundly criticized.
Moreover, Judge Kavanaugh’s demeanor was inconsistent with the reflective, open-minded, measured behavior one would expect and demand from any judge, never mind a justice of the Supreme Court. His testimony reflected a partisan identification that raises questions about whether he could impartially rule on any matter directly or indirectly involving the Democratic Party.
While we can continue to hope for a full investigation before a final vote, the hearings this week demonstrate the importance of continuing to raise awareness about the impact of sexual violence and to reinforce the values of respect and dignity, even in the face of disagreements.