One of the most galvanizing figures undercutting the 2018 midterm elections on Tuesday was Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The confirmation of Kavanaugh to the nation's highest court in October became a lightning rod issue in the election's home stretch, but whether he's out of the woods now that he's on the bench is another question entirely. Now that the House has tilted in Democrats' favor, there's a definite possibility that Congress could impeach Kavanaugh. To weigh in on what this might look like, Elite Daily spoke with Barbara Radnofsky, an law expert in impeachment and the author of A Citizen's Guide to Impeachment.
Even judges on the nation's highest court are subject to the impeachment process, Radnofsky says in an email to Elite Daily, and points to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase's impeachment in 1804. "A Supreme Court justice is clearly impeachable," she adds. "There's no question of that." As of Nov. 9, however, there have been no major moves to impeach the new Supreme Court justice.
Kavanaugh's confirmation was roiled by numerous allegations of sexual assault, including the jaw-dropping testimony given during the hearing process by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, all of which Kavanaugh has denied. The White House did not return Elite Daily's requests for comment on the allegations.
Because of those allegations, though, the House could deem Kavanaugh unfit for the position or feel he is not upholding the high bar of that office — setting the grounds for impeachment. But, that doesn't mean Kavanaugh will be removed. "The Senate will have a very heavy burden to decide does this undermine the integrity and public's confidence in the judge," Radnofsky told me back in September. The Senate ultimately would have to try the case and only a two-thirds vote would remove Kavanaugh — unlikely, with a Republican Senate majority.
But the allegations wouldn't be the only grounds on which Kavanaugh might be impeachable. There was speculation that Kavanaugh had not been truthful during his Senate confirmation hearings, an offense that if true, Radnofsky says, is well within the bounds for removing a federal judge from office. Elite Daily reached out to representatives of Kavanaugh at the Supreme Court for comment on the speculation, but did not immediately hear back. "A federal judge is clearly impeachable for misconduct prior to taking his current federal job," she adds, "and a federal judge is impeachable for lying to get his current job or past federal jobs."
As Radnofsky told me back in September, Congress is compelled to hold federal officers in the judiciary to a higher standard given that this branch of government is designed to administer justice. Impeachment, in fact, can be based on whatever Congress feels might bring about an electorate's distrust in the government. Even things like "bankruptcy and tax fraud are also traditional federal impeachment bases in modern times," she explains, because they bring "disrespect, lack of trust and dishonor to the office in what is personal behavior."
"The bottom line is that the key to impeachment is political will and developing strong evidence, proof of serious harm posed to the U.S., our people, society or system of government," she says.
But it remains unclear if this new crop of representatives in Congress — majority Democratic or majority Republican — will have that political will to bring any impeachment proceedings against the court's most junior member.