Yesterday Professor Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning her allegations that Supreme Court Justice-nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. Her testimony was calm, dispassionate, and as specific as possible for a survivor of sexual abuse to recall completely more than three decades after the event. Judge Kavanaugh refuted Professor Ford’s allegations, at times angrily and at times tearfully, offering his high school calendar/diaries as evidence and insisting that his nomination needed no additional review by any agency. The hearings can be seen here; the transcript of the hearings is available here.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings were an excellent opportunity for our students to see the Senate at work. Among the many things that struck me as I watched the hearings were Judge Kavanaugh’s refusal to ask the President or the Judiciary Committee Chair to request another FBI review of his case, and how emotional and partisan he was in his testimony and in his self-presentation. Neither of my observations speak to the issue of whether or not Professor Ford or Judge Kavanaugh is telling the truth; they speak instead to the power of the Supreme Court and the necessity of judicial temperament.
As political science students well know, the US Supreme Court has no enforcement powers. It relies completely on the other branches of government, and on the states, to comply with its decisions. It relies on Congress to legislate to correct what the Court identifies as unjust or inconsistent with the Constitution; it relies on states to bring their laws into compliance with Court decisions; it relies on the President to change his behavior when the Court rebukes his actions. The willingness of presidents, Members of Congress, governors, and members of state legislatures to comply with the Court’s decisions, as well as the willingness of the mass public to accept them, depend upon the legitimacy of the Court.
The US Supreme Court, and the federal and state court systems generally, present themselves in ways that undergird and reinforce legitimacy. Supreme Court Justices have historically presented themselves as outside of partisan politics. The Court is the only branch of government whose members have an official uniform. The Court building, and its Court Chamber where cases are heard, have intentional architectural majesty. The legitimacy of the Court is reinforced by the quality of its members, who have expert legal training, extensive judicial experience, and have demonstrated a clear and consistent judicial temperament.
What is judicial temperament? Alexander Hamilton refers to judicial temperament in Federalist Paper #78: “there can be but few … in the society who will have sufficient skill in the laws to quality them for the stations of judges. And making the proper deductions for the ordinary depravity of human nature, the number must be still smaller of those who unite the requisite integrity with the requisite knowledge.”
The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary identifies the following elements of character as composing judicial temperament: “compassion, decisiveness, open-mindedness, courtesy, patience, freedom from bias, and commitment to equal justice under the law.” Additional characteristics include “humility, collegiality, wit, pragmatism, a ‘common touch,’ likability, ‘the capacity and inclination to treat litigants as equals,’ sensitivity to racial and gender issues, not being addicted to drugs or alcohol, and absence of a criminal record.” These characteristics help to undergird the Court’s legitimacy and to defuse accusations of partisanship or privilege in the decisions of any Justice.
Judge Kavanaugh’s unwillingness to ask for an additional FBI review of the accusations made against him, and his angry and aggressive response to the accusations, as well as his disrespectful and juvenile questioning of Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), raise questions about his judicial temperament. Others, however, have asked for this review and for a postponement of the vote, including female Members of the US House of Representatives who have experienced sexual assault and abuse, and at least three governors, including Ohio Governor John Kasich. The American Bar Association, which has ranked Judge Kavanaugh as “well-qualified” for appointment to the Court, also has asked for a delay in the Senate confirmation vote. As the ABA’s letter states,
“Deciding to proceed without conducting additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate’s reputation, but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court.”
I encourage our students to continue to follow this nomination and confirmation process, and to discuss it with each other and with the Political Science faculty. Even as I write this, the Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing to vote on its recommendation by 1:30pm today.
With all best wishes,
Flora Stone Mather Professor
Chair, Department of Political Science
Friday Lunch: “Panama” and “Paradise”
September 28, 12:30-1:30pm, Kelvin Smith Library Dampeer Room
Join Professor of Law Richard Gordon for a discussion of the impact of lessons learned from the Panama Papers on international tax evasion. Event is free.
A View from the Death House
September 28, 12:45-2pm, Sears 333
Join Law Professor Michael Benza as he takes an inside look at capital punishment and executions. Lunch will be provided. RSVP to Terri Mester.
Gun Violence in America: A Public Health Crisis
October 3, 6-7:30pm, Crawford Hall, Room A9
Sophomore Annie Du, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, will convene a panel to discuss the critical issue of gun violence through a public health lens. Event is free and open to the community, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Faces of Wrongful Conviction
October 3, 7pm Landmark Centre Building
Experienced attorney Alec Berezin will lead this class, which features candid and compelling conversations with the people who know the realities of wrongful convictions better than any other experts: Ohioans who were wrongfully convicted. Learn what when wrong, what went right, and where these incredible people are now, and the struggles they faced after being released. Event is free, advanced registration is recommended.
Aftermath: Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria and Cleveland Resettlement
October 4, 6-7:30pm, Clapp Hall
Join us for a panel discussion focusing on the economic and social issues that previously weakened the Puerto Rican infrastructure, the devastation of Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, and the efforts of local organizations to support new migrants in Cleveland. Judge Jazmin Lugo-Torres (Puerto Rico native and the first elected Hispanic female to hold a judicial seat in Northeast Ohio) will moderate.
Challenging Gerrymandering, the Purge, and More
October 4, 7-8:30pm, Market Garden Brewery, Lower Level Room
Join the ACLU of Ohio, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute for a panel discussion on the current state of voting rights in Ohio. The event is free and open to the public.
The Opioid Crisis Facing Our Courts: A Judges Perspective
October 4, 7pm, Landmark Centre Building
Judge Polster was handed groundbreaking work when they chose him to work on the lawsuits brought upon the pharmaceutical companies by cities, counties and Native American tribes throughout the U.S. Join Judge Polster as he walks us through how he came to his decisions on how to handle these suits and the difficulties he faces. Event is free, registration required.
The Troubles: Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding
October 5, 8am-12pm The Lombardo Student Center, John Carroll University
This half-day interactive workshop will be a deep dive into the history, politics and peacebuilding process of “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland. The workshop will build a strong knowledge of the Northern Ireland conflict and will strengthen conflict resolution competencies, which can be utilized in the classroom. Student tickets are $15.
Friday Lunch: The Power to Pardon
October 5, 12:30-1:30pm, Mather House 100
What are the bounds, norms, and risks of presidents’ power to pardon? Mike Benza, a leading expert on death penalty and other aspects of constitutional criminal law, joins us to discuss the issues.
Meet Local and State Candidates for Various Offices
October 6, 8-11:30am, Mt. Gillion Baptist Church, 7025 Cedar Ave
The Voter Awareness Committee of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland Guild will be hosting their annual Candidates Forum Breakfast to give voters the opportunity to meet local and state candidates for various offices.
Rhodes and Fulbright Information Sessions
October 6, 11-11:50am, Thwing Center
As part of the Fall Leadership Conference, this workshop examines what it takes to win one of these post-graduate fellowships for study, research, or teaching overseas. Register online here.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
CHCI’s paid internships offer Latino undergraduate students experience what it’s like to work in a congressional office, while participating in weekly professional and leadership development and civic engagement through community service. Applications for Spring 2019 close October 15.
Cleveland Council on World Affairs Internships
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
Previously posted opportunities can be found on the department webpage. Please make sure to check regularly as to not miss approaching deadlines!
City Club of Cleveland
The City Club of Cleveland has two open positions: part-time Office and Customer Experience Coordinator (applicants should send resume and cover letter to CFO Julie Kelly, email@example.com) and full-time Membership and Advancement Manager (applications should send their resume and cover letter to Director of Advancement Noelle Celeste, firstname.lastname@example.org).
A Little Extra…