“Judicial temperament” applies to situations in which an impartial third party is or would be acting as a judge, weighing evidence that might support one side of a case or the other. It cannot apply to one of the parties to a dispute or allegation of wrongdoing, nor can it reasonably be inferred in other matters from the attitude or statements of one of the first two parties with respect to the accusation. Of course, an individual accused of a misdeed for which they KNOW they are innocent can be expected to react angrily. That would be natural and understandable, and it has nothing to do with the individual’s judgement in other realms. Any victim of wrongdoing has a right to be angry, and a false accusation is no exception.
Christine Blasey Ford has accused Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault that she says took place 36 years ago when the two were in high school, but without corroboration of any kind. The Left has characterized Kavanaugh’s righteous indignation as a “temper tantrum” unbefitting a Supreme Court Justice. “Oh, but why are you so angry?”, they ask. Really.
Assuming that he is indeed innocent of the charge, and there are many reasons to doubt its veracity, Kavanaugh’s reaction was well-justified. The allegation was unveiled by the minority on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the eleventh hour as they prepared to vote on bringing his name to the floor of the Senate for confirmation. A much earlier disclosure was possible and would have permitted an investigation weeks before the Committee hearings. Not only that, the minority presumed his guilt, he was called “evil” by one senator, he received death threats against his family, and he was forced to field a host of probative questions about his teenage scribblings in a high school yearbook. Only a Vulcan would greet such sabotage of character with equanimity, and I’ll gladly give Kavanaugh a pass on it. I mostly enjoyed his fire and emotional at the hearing last Friday.
Another dimension of judicial temperament is impartiality. The meaning of that term can be manipulated, of course. For example, one’s views on constitutional interpretation are at the very root of many political disagreements, yet when convenient, some pretend that the two are mutually exclusive. Shall we disqualify anyone with a specific constitutional philosophy? Does it somehow depend on which seat is open? Of course not.
On the other hand, Kavanaugh voiced what many knew to be true at the hearing last Friday: the Leftist minority on the Committee had prepared an ambush to destroy him. He also noted the possibility of lingering resentment for his role on Ken Starr’s staff investigating the Clintons in the 1990s. Perhaps Kavanaugh was unchaste to express what was obvious, and the Left has seized on those statements as evidence of a disqualifying political bias. But again, he stated what he knows to be true.
Kavanaugh’s is widely viewed as an impartial jurist, and he has a history of collegiality with judicial peers from across the political spectrum. As Randy Barnett states at the link above:
“His 300 opinions have been thoughtful and well reasoned. His reasoning has repeatedly been adopted by majorities of the Supreme Court. He gets high marks from, well, from everyone for his intelligence, decency, and judicial temperament.”
It is my conviction that Kavanaugh would rely on his legal scholarship and constitutional philosophy, as he has in the past, in deciding his positions on issues that come before the Court, rather than hearing cases with a view toward malice against particular individuals or one end of the political spectrum. I also believe he is wise enough to know that he should recuse himself in cases of obvious personal conflict. The charge that he lacks judicial temperament is an additional attack based on his judicial philosophy, and it is an opportunistic attempt to discredit him on the basis of his strong and understandable response to a smear campaign.