More than 250 Yale Law School alumni, students and staff have signed a petition urging the school’s leadership to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, arguing that his addition to the court poses a threat to democracy.
“People will die if he is confirmed,” reads the letter sent to law dean Heather Gerken on Tuesday, which says Kavanaugh is hostile to women’s reproductive rights and would “act as a rubber stamp for President Trump’s fraud and abuse.”
Kavanaugh graduated from the prestigious school in 1990, where he was the notes editor of Yale’s flagship law journal. Yale Law on Monday posted an article on its website highlighting his ties to the school and touting his stature within the legal community, though it did not explicitly endorse Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“I have known Brett Kavanaugh for many years,” Gerken said in the school’s news report about Kavanaugh’s nomination. “I can personally attest that, in addition to his government and judicial service, Judge Kavanaugh has been a longtime friend to many of us in the Yale Law School community. Ever since I joined the faculty, I have admired him for serving as a teacher and mentor to our students and for hiring a diverse set of clerks, in all respects, during his time on the court.”
Yale Law spokeswomen Janet Conroy said Wednesday that the school published a similar article about 1997 alumna Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination in 2009. Like the Kavanaugh news item, the Sotomayor article included personal reflections from Yale faculty about the nominee but does not endorse her.
“Yale Law School is a nonpartisan institution,” Conroy said. “We routinely acknowledge high-profile nominations of our alumni.”
The Yale letter marks the second time in three weeks that law school alumni have taken a position on a high-profile political development. Last month, former classmates of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at the University of Virginia School of Law wrote her a letter imploring her to end the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border.
In their letter about Kavanaugh, the Yale students and alumni argue that the school has a moral obligation to oppose the judge’s nomination, and that his relationship to the school should not overshadow his jurisprudence.
The letter takes particular issue with Kavanaugh’s potential impact on abortion rights, spotlighting his recent decision denying an abortion to a detained immigrant minor. The letter also raises concerns with what it calls Kavanaugh’s “extreme deference to the Executive,” his opposition to net neutrality regulations, and hostility to environmental regulations, among other issues.
“Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination presents an emergency — for democratic life, for our safety and freedom, for the future of our country. His nomination is not an interesting intellectual exercise to be debated amongst classmates and scholars in seminar,” the letter reads.
Harvard Law School has also promoted its ties to Kavanaugh on its website, with an article about the nominee’s position as a lecturer at the school.
“An inspiring teacher and mentor, Judge Kavanaugh has somehow always found extra time for his students, whether to dig deeper into important legal questions or to offer valuable career advice,” said Harvard Law dean John Manning in that article. “Let me take this occasion to thank Judge Kavanaugh for the generosity, dedication, and collegiality he has shown our community.”
The Yale student and alumni letter acknowledges that taking a position against Kavanaugh’s nomination could have repercussions for the school, but the signers argue that the school has a responsibility to oppose it.
“Now is the time for moral courage—which for Yale Law School comes at so little cost,” it reads. “Perhaps you, as an institution and as individuals, will benefit less from Judge Kavanaugh’s ascendent power if you withhold your support. Perhaps Judge Kavanaugh will be less likely to hire your favorite students. But people will die if he is confirmed. We hope you agree your sacrifice would be worth it.”