A panel of federal judges has permanently dismissed all 83 ethics complaints filed against Justice Brett Kavanaugh around the time of his confirmation hearing last fall without considering their merits, stating that it does not have the authority to do so.
The panel, called the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, on Thursday upheld a decision made in December by a different panel of judges. Those judges were from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and were convened by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Both groups concluded that Kavanaugh is no longer subject to the federal judiciary’s internal ethics review process because he is now a member of the Supreme Court. He became immune the moment he was confirmed on Oct. 6, a process that followed a congressional testimony about sexual misconduct allegations against him.
The judicial conduct committee derives its power from the 1980 Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, which outlines how complaints should be made against federal courts. But the law does not include the Supreme Court, and the high court has no formal ethics review process.
The theory behind not including the Supreme Court is that “it would be at least unseemly for lower court judges to discipline Supreme Court justices (even though most states allow it and district judges are members of judicial councils, which can discipline circuit judges),” according to the nonprofit Brookings Institution.
Congress has the power to step in, but there has been no indication the Democratic-led House plans to do so.
According to many of the complaints, Kavanaugh violated codes of conduct set for federal judges by becoming angry and emotional during his confirmation hearings in September. A California woman, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party in high school. At least two other women then came forward with allegations against the then-nominee.
Kavanaugh unleashed a partisan diatribe during the hearings.
“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups,” he said at one point.
Kavanaugh’s reaction to the accusations against him drew criticism from the late Justice John Paul Stevens, who urged senators not to confirm him.
But Kavanaugh was confirmed, if very narrowly, 50-48. Every Republican but one, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), voted for him, and every Democrat but one, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), rejected him.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has since characterized her newest colleague as “very decent and very smart.”