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U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh gives a speech in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018.  © 2018 Reuters

(Washington, DC) – US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s record raises serious concerns about his positions on key human rights protections that depend on the Court’s jurisprudence, Human Rights Watch said in a document released today. During his confirmation hearing, US Senators should ask and demand answers to important questions on matters that impact the rights of those in the US and abroad.

“Many important civil and other human rights hinge on narrowly decided US Supreme Court cases,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, US Program director at Human Rights Watch. “Those rights and many others hang in the balance with this nomination and there are many reasons to be concerned about Kavanaugh’s record.”

The document, “Key Rights at Stake: Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination to the US Supreme Court,” examines opinions Kavanaugh issued during his 12 years on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and his speeches and writings throughout his career. It demonstrates reason to be concerned about his record on a number of issues including abortion rights; healthcare; freedom of expression; due process, especially in the national security context; accountability for police and other government abuse; the need for limits to mass warrantless government surveillance; and net neutrality. He also appears not to accept the important principle that international human rights law should be seen as relevant when interpreting certain US law.  

Prior to becoming a judge, Kavanaugh held several senior jobs during the George W. Bush administration including in the White House counsel’s office and as White House staff secretary. This corresponds to a time when important executive branch decisions were being made on a variety of issues including policies supporting abusive detention and torture. Millions of pages of documents relate to views Kavanaugh expressed on these issues at the time. However, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-IA), has not requested many of them and the ones he has requested are not likely to be produced until the end of October. Grassley has scheduled Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing to begin September 4, 2018.

“US Senators must be given the opportunity to thoroughly examine Kavanaugh’s full record, on and off the bench, prior to his confirmation hearing,” Austin-Hillery said. “The lack of key documents, coupled with the Senate’s expedited timeframe, risks precluding a thorough consideration of Kavanaugh’s record.”


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