By: Jacob Rosenfeld | News  | 

21 Cardozo Professors Sign NY Times Letter Opposing Kavanaugh Nomination

Twenty-one professors from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law joined more than 2,400 other law professors in signing an open letter in The New York Times’ Opinion Section. The professors were attempting to urge the U.S. Senate not to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The letter appears in the opinion section of The Times and was presented to the Senate on Thursday, Oct. 4.

The open letter comes after an intense confirmation process underscored by a F.B.I. investigation into sexual assault allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The 412-word letter begins by discussing judicial temperament as “one of the most important qualities of a judge.” The letter goes on to mention that Judge Kavanaugh lacked judicial temperament in his Sept. 27 Senate hearing, which should disqualify him from sitting on any court. The professors who signed the letter argue that Judge Kavanaugh’s prepared remarks and “aggressive” responses to questioning during the hearing showed a lack of interest in the “necessary search for accuracy” in the allegations made against him, but the letter does not take a stance on the allegations themselves.

Cardozo School of Law University Professor of Law and Comparative Democracy and Justice Sydney L. Robins Professor of Human Rights Michel Rosenfeld explained the problem with Judge Kavanaugh’s lack of judicial temperament by saying, “His aggressive and accusatory partisanship was particularly offensive because when people will come to argue before him they may reasonably suspect him of being blatantly against one of the two major political parties in our country. All judges are entitled to their political opinions, but no other judge has displayed any similar conduct after being nominated to the nation's highest court.”

The professors further imply that Judge Kavanaugh falls under two statutes which govern the bias and recusal of judges and “as Congress has previously put it, a judge or justice ‘shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.’”

The conclusion emphasizes that Judge Kavanaugh’s politics are not the driving force behind the authorship of the letter but rather that Judge Kavanaugh did not exhibit “the impartiality and judicial temperament” required of a Supreme Court Justice.

The letter gained traction quickly around the national law school community, including within Cardozo. Twenty-one of the approximately 85 Cardozo professors signed the letter – approximately 25 percent. Many students were shocked at how many professors from all over the country singed on so quickly.Betsy Ginsberg, Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Civil Rights Clinic at Cardozo, commented, “Before reading the letter, I was skeptical that one letter could adequately capture the views of such a large and diverse group, but by focusing on this critical area of consensus the letter it was able to wade past those disagreements and focus on something critical to everyone.”

On Wednesday night, Oct. 3, U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a cloture petition furthering the confirmation process for Judge Kavanaugh. Per Senate rules, one legislative day must pass before proceeding on to a cloture vote. The letter was shown to the Senate prior to the Friday cloture vote when four Senators were still undecided. The Friday cloture vote was ultimately passed limiting debate of the nominee to 30 hours. Judge Brett Kavanaugh was later confirmed as a Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States after a Saturday morning vote of 50-48.


Photo Caption: Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Photo Credit: The New York Times