Legal Education

Group of Harvard Law students call for school to remove Kavanaugh as an instructor

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U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh/PBS screenshot

Four students at Harvard Law School, where U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is a lecturer, have written an opinion piece calling for the school administration to remove him as an instructor "unless a full and fair investigation is conducted."

Kavanaugh is scheduled to teach “The Supreme Court Since 2005” in January, and has taught at the school since 2008, according to the Washington Post.

The students’ column, which was published Thursday in the Harvard Law Record, was written in response to Stanford professor Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when the two were teenagers. The article questioned whether Harvard Law has a process for responding to allegations of this nature, and if so, whether the process would be carried out fairly, considering Kavanaugh’s prestige. The ABA Journal has reached out to Harvard Law for comment.

“Has Harvard Law School considered how this opportunity to learn about the Supreme Court might not be equally available to women because many will self-select out of a class taught by a credibly accused sexual assailant?” the piece asks. “Women at this law school are already forced to opt out of clerkships and employment opportunities in order to avoid alleged sexual predators; they should not also be forced to opt out of classes. The administration diminishes women’s access to education when they fail to address allegations of abuse.”

The article was signed by Jake Meiseles, a 3L student, and Molly Coleman, Vail Kohnert-Yount, and Sejal Singh, who are 2Ls. The four says they are members of the Pipeline Parity Project, which is described in its Twitter account as “Harvard Law students working with students, faculty, and alumni to end harassment and discrimination in the legal profession.” The Post reports that the group plans to distribute buttons that say “I Believe Christine Blasey Ford.”

Kohnert-Yount told the Huffington Post that with Kavanaugh as an instructor, she would not feel comfortable taking the class. She said that it puts students in a “very uncomfortable position and necessitates that vulnerable people self-select out of a learning opportunity.”

Student reviews from Kavanaugh’s previous courses at Harvard Law were predominately positive, the New York Times reported in July. Three students who took his courses went on to clerk for him. The Times reports that Kavanaugh was hired to teach at Harvard Law by Justice Elena Kagan, when she was dean of the law school.

On Friday, nearly 50 faculty members of Yale Law School, where Kavanaugh has also taught, signed an open letter stating that they were “concerned about a rush to judgment that threatens both the integrity of the process and the public’s confidence in the court.” has a story.

“Where, as here, a sexual assault has been alleged against an individual nominated for a lifetime appointment in a position of public trust, a partisan hearing alone cannot be the forum to determine the truth of the matter,” the letter states. “Allegations of sexual assault require a neutral factfinder and an investigation that can ascertain facts fairly. Those at the FBI or others tasked with such an investigation must have adequate time to investigate facts. Fair process requires evidence from all parties with direct knowledge and consultation of experts when evaluating such evidence.”

Kavanaugh is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Ford has said that she wants to testify about her experience, but cannot do so Monday.

Since making the allegations Ford and her family have received death threats, her attorney Debra Katz wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Washington Post reports.

“She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible, and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event. Her strong preference continues to be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow for a full investigation prior to her testimony,” Katz wrote, according to the Times. Katz proposed Thursday as an alternate date for Ford to speak with the committee, the Times also reports.

Following Katz’s letter, Kavanaugh released a statement that he will testify on Monday, according to NBC News. “I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible, so that I can clear my name,” the statement reads.

According to a USA Today/Ipsos Public Affairs Poll, 40 percent of those surveyed were opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination, and 31 percent were in favor of it. A sample of approximately 1,008 Americans were interviewed online for the poll.

This was the first time that a plurality of respondents opposed a U.S. Supreme Court nominee since the organization began polling on the issue, USA Today reports. Thirty-two percent of those polled believed Ford’s allegations, while 28 percent did not.

President Donald Trump tweeted about Ford by name for the first time Friday morning, asking whether there were law enforcement reports about the 1982 incident. He also called Kavanaugh “a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians” and wrote, “Let her testify, or not, and TAKE THE VOTE!”

Adds new 12th and 13th paragraphs regarding polling numbers on Kavanugh at 1:36 p.m. Updated at 4:12 p.m. to add information about the Yale Law faculty members’ open letter.

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