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Supreme Court Fight Highlights Need for More Civility

The Senate recently had the opportunity to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court—the second Supreme Court Justice we’ve confirmed since President Trump was elected. He was sworn in shortly after his confirmation vote. This is a positive move for all who believe the role of the judiciary is to interpret the law rather than legislate from the bench. I believe Justice Kavanaugh will call balls and strikes in a fair, unbiased manner.


The United States Supreme Court is the nation’s highest court for all cases arising under the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Therefore, confirming fair-minded judges who will interpret the Constitution and laws as written is one of the most important duties of the Senate. The decisions made by the Supreme Court have lasting effects on the direction of our country.


After President Trump nominated then-Judge Kavanaugh in July, all senators had the opportunity to meet with him and review the 300-plus decisions he wrote during his 12 years as a circuit court judge, as well as the tens of thousands of additional pages of background material. He testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for more than 32 hours and answered nearly 1,300 written questions afterward.


I met with then-Judge Kavanaugh this summer so I could gain additional insight into his judicial philosophy. During our meeting, we spoke about issues important to South Dakotans including the role of limited government, states’ rights, privacy and cybersecurity.


Despite this extensive ‘advice and consent’ period and the compilation of six (ultimately seven) FBI background investigations, sexual assault allegations surfaced in the final hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on his nomination. In response, on Sept. 27, 2018, then-Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified under oath before the committee. I supported this additional hearing so both sides could be heard.


After watching the hearing, I believe that something terrible undoubtedly happened to Dr. Ford that has impacted her life. I also believe that then-Judge Kavanaugh provided compelling testimony and evidence to refute the claims against him. Ultimately, after considering the testimony and reviewing the additional FBI background investigation, it is clear there is no evidence to support the events Dr. Ford claims occurred sometime during the summer of 1982. Furthermore, the witnesses which she identified either could not confirm or outright denied her allegations, both to the Senate Judiciary Committee under penalty of felony as well as to the FBI.


The national discourse during Justice Kavanaugh’s hearings has exposed many personal, painful stories of sexual assault experiences. It goes without saying that sexual assault cannot be tolerated. Allegations of this misconduct must always be taken seriously. Everyone who reports unwanted sexual contact deserves to be treated fairly and with the utmost respect. 


Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was dysfunctional, turbulent and overtly-political. I feel very strongly that all Americans must do our part to return to a greater level of civility. We must retain our ability to disagree respectfully and without the vitriol and hate that was often on display during this confirmation process. As Americans, we must always remember that much more unites us than divides us.


Justice Kavanaugh has already hit the ground running at the Supreme Court. I have the utmost confidence in his ability to protect the Constitution and the rule of law.