In my 31 years of practicing law, I have learned a thing or two about courtrooms. For starters, I suspect it is a universal custom to install uncomfortable chairs to discourage attorneys from spending too much time there. But I also know you can learn a great deal about a judge by carefully observing him or her on the bench. My experience with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, as well as my study of his rulings and opinions, have led me to conclude he is an outstanding nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy is grounded in interpreting the U.S. Constitution as its framers intended. That is the legal framework upon which the rule of law rests. The alternative is a constitution that means whatever those in power want it to mean at any given time, and the erosion of our rights and liberties under the rising tide of a centralized administrative state.
An unfortunate trend over the last few decades is the massive transfer of power from Congress to agencies of the executive branch. In 2016 alone, federal departments, agencies, and commissions issued more than 3,800 rules and regulations, while Congress passed and the president signed 214 bills into law. This raises the question, are we governed by the representatives we elect, or by the unelected bureaucrats running innumerable federal agencies?
Judge Kavanaugh recognizes that the framers of our Constitution separated powers between the branches of government to prevent the very executive overreach we see today. He also understands the Constitution was designed to, among other things, protect the rights and sovereignty of individuals states.
Serving on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, Kavanaugh overruled federal agency action in dozens of cases. He fought for accountability from agencies seemingly structured to avoid direct answerability to our elected officials. This is good for Montana, as we are often on the receiving end of costly, burdensome, and job-killing regulations.
Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions from the bench show great respect for the Second Amendment. He affirmed that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. His dissenting opinion in a key 2011 case argued that Washington D.C.’s ban on semi-automatic weapons was unconstitutional.
My experience with Judge Kavanaugh goes beyond the study of his rulings and opinions. I personally observed him in action on a Montana case. As one of the state attorneys general who led the fight against President Obama’s costly and illegal “clean power plan,” I attended the hearing when the DC Circuit Court heard our multi-state legal challenge. Judge Kavanaugh’s demeanor stood out from that of his peers in the hearing. He was deeply attentive. He demonstrated a keen intellect, a clear grasp of case facts, and asked incisive questions that struck to the core of the issue. In short, he scrutinized a case in precisely the way a justice of our nation’s highest court should.
Judge Kavanaugh is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. He is an independent legal mind whose rulings and opinions make it clear he measures cases not against political or ideological litmus tests, but in light of the U.S. Constitution. He understands that a justice’s job is to apply laws, not make them.
A lifetime appointment is no small matter. The Senate has a solemn responsibility to vet a nominee and evaluate his or her record. The hearings are complete and most senators, including our own Steve Daines, have met with Judge Kavanaugh personally. Sen. Daines also announced he will be voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. I urge Senator Jon Tester to do the same.
Tim Fox is the 24th Attorney General of Montana. Born, raised, and educated in Montana, Fox practiced law in the private and public sectors for 25 years before he was first elected attorney general in 2012.
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