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Brett Kavanaugh: The Ladies' Man

Vivia Chen

July 19, 2018


That Brett Kavanaugh must be some lady killer. I’m talking about all those women who have come out to support his nomination for the Supreme Court. Honestly, I can’t remember another nominee who’s mustered this kind of backing from former female colleagues. He must be the epitome of the enlightened man. Or some type of Svengali.

As you may know, his former female clerks wrote an impassioned letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee (18 out of 25 signed the letter; the remaining seven were restricted by employers from doing so). Among other things, they lauded Kavanaugh for his mentorship and promotion of gender equality, noting that he’s hired 25 women and 23 men as law clerks. They also wrote that many of them wouldn’t be where they are today without his personal stewardship.

And recently, Amy Chua—the Tiger Mom herself!—joined the bandwagon. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Chua (above) extols Kavanaugh for being inclusive and supportive of women. Chua notes that she’s placed 10 (eight of them women) of her students from Yale Law School as his clerks, and that when she asked them about their experience, “all responded almost instantaneously” with unbridled enthusiasm. (Chua’s daughter Sophia, a recent Yale Law School grad, was slated to clerk for Kavanaugh, too.)

What’s more, Chua writes that Kavanaugh values diversity, noting that a quarter of his clerks are racially and ethnically diverse and that more than half have been women. He also hires “across the ideological spectrum,” notes Chua, and “wants to hear other perspectives before deciding a case.” (Remember, Justice Antonin Scalia also hired liberals, even a self-declared socialist.) She adds: “The qualities he exhibits with his clerks may provide important evidence about the kind of justice he would be.”

Kavanaugh sounds like a genuinely swell guy, but I’m not sure what Chua means about “important evidence about the kind of justice he would be.” Does it mean that he will weigh all sides of an issue and keep an open mind? Or does it mean that he will listen carefully and respectfully to all sides, but ultimately find a way to justify an outcome—like overturning Roe v. Wade?

Given that Kavanaugh is a bona fide conservative, I tend to think it will be the later. (We got a hint of what he might do with Roe from his dissent last fall in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody.)

So here’s what I find troubling about these testimonials: They seem to conflate being a good boss and mentor to women and minorities to being a champion for them on other fronts. In other words, they suggest that these personal interactions translate to broader policies on women’s rights.

These endorsements would be much more honest and meaningful if Kavanaugh’s supporters would make that distinction—that is, separate the man from his policy. Celebrate him as a wonderful boss, friend and father, but call him for what he is: an avid conservative who will likely turn back the clock on reproductive and civil rights. (And while we’re at it, let’s admit that men who are pigs to women in their personal lives, such as Bill Clinton, can be great advocates for women.)

So why aren’t these women, particularly the ones who skew liberal, being more forthright? Well, I think it’s because Kavanaugh stands out for being truly respectable to women—and everyone wants to believe he’s a feminist as a result.

Indeed, Chua seems to give him extra brownie points because he’s not a jerk to women. “These days the press is full of stories about powerful men exploiting or abusing female employees,” Chua writes. “That makes it even more striking to hear Judge Kavanaugh’s female clerks speak of his decency and his role as a fierce champion of their careers.”

Really, women don’t ask for much.

Contact Vivia Chen at [email protected]. On Twitter: @lawcareerist




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Very fine job at pointing out the logical errors here. I am very proud to have been the teacher of such a good thinker and writer.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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