Retired Justice John Paul Stevens admits Brett Kavanaugh is doing a good job on the Supreme Court

May 15, 2019

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens once said that Brett Kavanaugh was too biased to serve on the Supreme Court. Now, the liberal judge says that Kavanaugh is doing a good job.

The 99-year-old former justice told CNN Tuesday that his past comments were “unfortunate.”

Stevens walks back criticism

Stevens told CNN that he doesn’t like how partisan the Supreme Court has become, pointing to Bush v. Gore and District of Columbia v. Heller as decisions that have tainted the court’s reputation as an institution that is supposed to be above politics. But it seems that not even former Supreme Court justices, who are supposed to be wise and above the partisan warfare, are immune to political bias.

When Kavanaugh was up for the court, Stevens caused a stir when he joined the chorus of liberals calling for his nomination to be withdrawn. The former justice, who ought to have known how much weight his words carry, said that Kavanaugh was too political in his confirmation hearings to be trusted.

Stevens had previously said he approved of Kavanaugh’s work, but changed his mind when the judge came out guns blazing against the partisan smearing of his character, which he called a “calculated and orchestrated political hit” organized by leftists seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

“He has demonstrated potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities,” Stevens said at the time. “And I think there is merit in that criticism and that the senators should really pay attention to it. For the good of the court, it’s not healthy to get a new justice that can only do a part-time job.”

But now? It’s like the Kavanaugh hearings never happened. Stevens told CNN that his comments were “unfortunate” because “he’s really a good judge.”

“Do you regret, then, saying during the confirmation hearings that you didn’t think he should be confirmed?” interviewer John Berman asked. Stevens answered: “Perhaps I shouldn’t have said what I did, but I think his decisions will determine how good a judge he’ll be.”

What changed?

All it took for Stevens to change his mind, it seems, was losing. When leftists still had a chance to stop Kavanaugh, nothing was off the table to keep him off the court — no accusation was too outlandish.

Of course, progressives took up arms against Kavanaugh the moment his nomination was announced, warning that he would destroy abortion rights forever, threaten “millions” of lives, and usher in a Christian theocracy. But none of this rhetoric actually mattered; the only thing that mattered was winning. Even a former Supreme Court justice joined in with the partisan attacks when they counted, only to walk them back in his interview with CNN.

The interview itself was partisan softball, with Berman never labeling Stevens a liberal despite his left-wing positions on everything from abortion to guns. This omission is based in a common liberal theme: liberal judges are mysteriously “neutral,” while conservative ones are “biased,” so Stevens’ political alignment is not worth emphasizing.

When Berman asked Stevens if President Donald Trump “understands” the Supreme Court’s role, inviting him to trash the president, Stevens said that Trump doesn’t understand that the Supreme Court is non-partisan. There are no “Obama judges,” he said, as Trump infamously complained of a judge last year.

“I think he often speaks about them as Obama judges and other kinds of judges,” Stevens said. “But I think John Roberts was dead right when he said that there are only one kind of judges and they’re all working for the federal government.”

But Stevens’ apparent belief in the neutrality of the Supreme Court, and his concern that it’s becoming too political, are belied by his own partisan comments. In a new memoir, Stevens blasted the Heller decision, which affirmed the Second Amendment right to bear arms, as the “worst” decision of his entire 35 years on the court. But Kavanaugh showed too much “bias?”

It’s a shame how partisan the Supreme Court has become. Even more surprising is the bald prejudice of the judges entrusted to interpret the Constitution. The future of the Supreme Court looks bleak.


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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.