U.S. Supreme Court

Kavanaugh keeps a low profile since his confirmation, breaks with conservatives in a few votes

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh/C-SPAN screenshot.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh appears to be staying out of the limelight since a tumultuous Supreme Court confirmation hearing in which he strongly denied allegations of sexual assault.

Kavanaugh has deferred to colleagues in oral arguments and is following court traditions, CNN reports. At his formal investiture ceremony last Thursday, he didn’t appear for photographs, and he didn’t take the traditional walk down the Supreme Court’s steps with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., according to CNN and the New York Times.

A court spokesperson said Kavanaugh skipped the walk down the stairs “out of an abundance of caution, due to security concerns.”

During oral arguments, Kavanaugh has allowed other justices to ask questions first, and he has questioned both sides, “perhaps to avoid being labeled with a predictably conservative approach,” according to the CNN story.

Politico had labeled Kavanaugh’s questions “relatively mundane” during his first Supreme Court oral arguments on Oct. 9. On a few occasions when Kavanaugh spoke at the same time as another justice, he deferred to his colleagues.

During Nov. 6 oral arguments in the case of Missouri death-row inmate Russell Bucklew, Kavanaugh asked some questions suggesting sympathy with Bucklew’s arguments, according to coverage last week by CNBC and the Washington Post. Bucklew said he has a rare medical condition that would make death by lethal injection a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

President Donald Trump’s other Supreme Court nominee, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, often sides with Justice Clarence Thomas and takes an originalist approach, according to CNN. But in early votes Kavanaugh has more often aligned himself with Roberts.

Kavanaugh did not join conservative dissenters when the Supreme Court allowed a trial in a challenge to the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Nor did Kavanaugh voice any dissent when the Supreme Court refused to halt a climate-change lawsuit.

Kavanaugh’s colleagues also appear to be on good behavior, according to CNN. “The other justices have gone out of their way to be publicly welcoming,” the network reports, “and have shown an unusual degree of collegiality all around during arguments so far this term, even laughing more at one another’s jokes.”

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