2,400 law professors won't be drinking beers with Kavanaugh

It wasn’t just the #MeToo movement that was fighting the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. The legal education community was in the fray as well.

While protest efforts were unsuccessful and Kavanaugh was appointed by a razor-thin margin, the protests still resounded because of their scope.

More than 2,400 law professors signed a letter published in The New York Times saying Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexually assaulting women when he was in high school and college, was not fit to serve on the court. They made that call after seeing Kavanaugh’s appearance before a Senate Judiciary Committee in which he forcefully defended his innocenceand lashed out at several senators, calling the process a circus.

The law professors were clearly worried: “We have differing views about the other qualifications of Judge Kavanaugh,” the letter read. “But we are united, as professors of law and scholars of judicial institutions, in believing that he did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land.”

The American Bar Association also took issue with Kavanaugh’s testimony, which took place the same day that his main accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified. She claimed that Kavanaugh, as a drunken 17-year-old, sexually assaulted her at a house party. She was 15 at the time and managed to escape the attack, she said. Kavanaugh denied her allegations as well as those of others. He also repeatedly mentioned that he liked beer, but didn't drink to the point of blacking out. 

The dramatic nomination process captured the attention of law schools across the nation. Some canceled classes so students could watch the proceedings. A number of law students staged walkouts following Kavanaugh’s appointment.

“It was mainly based on frustration,” Kirstin Peterson, a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, told a TV station after walking out of her class in October.

Harvard Law School and Yale Law School saw considerable backlash from students and alumni because of the schools’ ties to Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh is a graduate of Yale and taught at Harvard for the past 10 years. The school announced in October that he will not be teaching a class that had been scheduled for the Spring 2019 semester.

Yale law students Jesse Tripathi and Jacob Schriner-Briggs were arrested Sept. 25 as they protested Kavanaugh’s nomination. The two were among 100 Yale Law School students who traveled to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate. The students entered the Hart Senate Office Building and visited the offices of Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., demanding they vote against Kavanaugh. Later in the day, Tripathi and Schriner-Briggs were arrested when they refused to leave a hallway.

“[We] decided to engage in an arrestable protest action, which is just a form of nonviolent civil disobedience,” Schriner-Briggs told a TV news reporter. “Specifically, the action that we participated in was in violation of a local ordinance that is against crowding, obstructing and incommoding. Basically, it just means you can’t go into a public building and sit on the floor and not move.”

Tripathi said the protest was designed to show that many Yale law students do not support Kavanaugh.

“There’s been a whole lot of anger at Yale Law for a while now, largely due to Kavanaugh’s nomination and the response of the administration,” Tripathi said. “And more broadly . . . how much he has been relying on this idea that he is this person who has a ton of support within the legal community. And so, a lot of people have really felt a desire to demonstrate that he does not have the support of Yale Law School.”

Schriner-Briggs wrote that he does not regret the arrest.

“Though some have questioned the prudence of my decision to engage in an arrestable demonstration, it was ultimately a straightforward one to make,” he said. “With the privileges bestowed upon me by my race, gender and Ivy League credentials, I felt compelled to express solidarity with women who have been silenced; with people of color disproportionately incarcerated; with the victims of economic injustice who struggle to pay rent, buy groceries and receive health care. With so much on the line for the most marginalized and vulnerable among us, and with so little of my own to lose, the choice was clear.”

Molly M.E Coleman, Yaacov “Jake” Meiseles, Alexandra “Vail” Kohnert-Yount and Sejal Singh were four of the most vocal critics of Harvard Law School regarding Kavanaugh’s teaching assignment there.

The four students are members of the Pipeline Parity Project, a student advocacy group at Harvard Law School that aims to end harassment and discrimination in the legal field.

In an opinion piece published in The Harvard Law Record, they demanded that the university no longer allow Kavanaugh to teach at Harvard Law School. Kavanaugh had taught at the law school as a visiting lecturer since 2008. Then-Dean Elena Kagan, who now sits on the U.S. Supreme Court, hired him to teach Separation of Powers. In 2014, he switched to teaching The Supreme Court Since 2005.

“I loved teaching law, but thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to teach again,” Kavanaugh said at the hearing.

 

 

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