Brett Kavanaugh hasn’t been spending much time lately in Washington’s federal appeals court.
As President Donald Trump’s pick to succeed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Kavanaugh’s dialed back his work on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Since his nomination on July 9, Kavanaugh has instead been meeting with U.S. senators and preparing for what promises to be a contentious confirmation hearing.
On Tuesday, Kavanaugh took a break from that work, donning black robes and appearing in the D.C. Circuit’s ceremonial courtroom to swear in a former clerk, Britt Grant, a week after the U.S. Senate voted 52-46 to confirm her for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
From a podium, speaking to a crowd that included Principal Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Wall and deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino, Kavanaugh said Grant had “risen quickly through the ranks of the legal profession” since clerking for him in 2007. Also in the audience were her fellow Kavanaugh clerks from that year: Zina Bash, a member of the team assisting Kavanaugh with the confirmation process; Travis Lenkner, managing director of the plaintiffs boutique Keller Lenkner; and Porter Wilkinson, chief of staff to the regents of the Smithsonian Institution.
“In our constitutional system, a judge must be independent, must keep an open mind in every case and must decide cases based on the facts and the law, not based on personal or policy views. Britt Grant understands the role of a judge,” Kavanaugh said. “She reveres the Constitution and she will work every day to preserve the American rule of law.”
Kavanaugh effusively praised Grant, describing her this way:
“the neighbor you want next door, the loyal friend you want as you travel through the valleys and mountains of life, the colleague you want when you have a tough issue to crack, and the fair, evenhanded judge you want when your life, liberty or property is on the line. I’m very proud of Britt Grant—proud to be her colleague in the American judiciary, and proud to be her friend.”
Grant was one of Kavanaugh’s 48 law clerks, and the only one who would go on to become a judge. Grant, formerly on the Georgia Supreme Court, also worked at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, where Kavanaugh formerly was a partner.
In her remarks, Grant called Kavanaugh her “first and best model of what a judge should be.” Grant said she would strive to “live up to Judge Kavanaugh’s example of integrity, civility and commitment to the rule of law.”
Once Grant concluded her remarks, Kavanaugh invited the crowd to a reception across the hall. “Alright, that’s it. We do it quick in the D.C. Circuit,” he said.
Kavanaugh has touted his hiring of female law clerks—25 of his 48 clerks. Twenty-one of his female clerks went on to U.S. Supreme Court clerkships.
Kavanaugh, since his nomination, has refrained from voting on D.C. Circuit cases in which he sat on the panel that heard arguments. He is also not being assigned to any new motions panels for cases arising to the D.C. Circuit. Still, there are several significant cases in the D.C. Circuit from which he would recuse if he is confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh will soon meet more with Senate Democrats, who are reportedly eager to ask him about his clerkship for disgraced former appeals Judge Alex Kozinski. Kozinski abruptly resigned last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct. The White House told Politico that Kavanaugh “had never heard any allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment” until claims against Kozinski arose last year.