Kavanaugh Case Requires Caution

I must take issue with your correspondent Gemma McGregor (Letters, 11 October). I do not consider those who object to the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh ignorant or careless of the judicial concept of everyone’s being innocent until proved guilty and of the need for due process. The Senate hearing was not a criminal trial. It was surely a very public questioning of someone’s credentials for one of the most important jobs in the country, in which the candidate, if successful, would take decisions that would have far-reaching implications for all US citizens, for the rule of law and for the status and reputation of the supreme court (and therefore perhaps for justice) itself.

The fact that several women had accused him of improper sexual conduct should have been a reason for the Senate to adopt the precautionary principle and to have chosen an alternative candidate. By doing so, they would not have found him guilty of any crime: he would merely have failed to get the job, and they would have acted with caution and wisdom. The only alternative to that would surely have been to order a proper, exhaustive FBI inquiry into the matter, rather than the perfunctory one that took place. By choosing neither of these options, the senators turned the appointment of a member of the highest court in the land into a political arm wrestling match: unedifying at best and deeply damaging to the reputation of the Senate and the judiciary at worst.

Kavanaugh’s demeanour during his testimony was improper and discouraging: he displayed petulance, self-pity, a sense of furious entitlement and political bias. He also did not answer questions put to him openly and fully. If he has been wrongly accused, his anger and dismay are understandable. But his behaviour in the Senate interview was not conducive to the respect needed by such a senior judge.

If he has indeed been involved in sexual misconduct, the cause of equal treatment for women has been set back and respect for the US judicial system lost. Either way, it was open to a wiser, less furiously partisan senatorial body to exercise caution and choose another candidate for such an important job.

Laura Phillips


Gemma McGregor may seem praiseworthy in that she wishes the presumption of innocence to be upheld even in cases where women claim to have been sexually assaulted. However, she makes this statement about a case in which such a high bar is arguably not appropriate, and which is very different from cases in criminal courts or even disciplinary cases internal to institutions. Candidates for the supreme court should be measured against a much higher standard. It is also true that in this case the investigation (almost certainly deliberately) failed to collect evidence in favour of the plaintiffs. Moreover, Kavanaugh’s intemperate accusations of a Democrat conspiracy do not suggest that he will be an impartial judge in cases with party-political implications, a vital consideration in relation to an institution that decides questions of supreme national importance. Whatever the standard we need to apply to the way institutions deal with accusations against their staff, this case is unique.

Jeremy Cushing


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Source : https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/12/kavanaugh-case-requires-caution

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