With Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh set to be confirmed by the Senate on Saturday, several ethics complaints from independent advocacy groups have been filed with the United States District Court in Washington D.C., the court where Kavanaugh served as a judge since 2006. The most recent complaint, filed by the liberal group Democratic Coalition, accuses Kavanaugh of committing perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony by denying that he received stolen documents while he was an official in the George W. Bush administration.
Those ethics cases against Kavanaugh will now be handled by a Republican-appointed judge who took over a seat vacated by Kenneth Starr, who went on to investigate President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. Kavanaugh worked for Starr as a law clerk, as Politico reported, and as an investigator on the Clinton investigation.
Under court rules, ethics complaints are handled by the court’s chief judge. On the Washington D.C. court, that chief judge is 65-year-old Merrick Garland, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997. But Garland became the center of an unprecedented controversy when President Barack Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016, to fill a seat vacated by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia when Scalia suddenly died, as NY Magazine recounts.
Immediately after Obama nominated Garland, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that Garland’s nomination would simply be ignored by the Senate, as NPR reported, claiming that because 2016 was an election year, “the American people should have a say in the court’s direction.” The Scalia seat remained unfilled until the nomination and approval of Neil Gorsuch by Donald Trump in 2017.
While the prospect of Garland ruling on ethics complaints against Kavanaugh may have seemed to some like a form of poetic justice, Garland ended that possibility on Saturday by recusing himself from ruling on the complaints while offering no explanation for why he would disqualify himself from handling the complaints against Kavanaugh, according to a BuzzFeed News report.
Instead, the ethics accusations against Kavanaugh will come under the jurisdiction of the second-most senior judge on the Washington D.C. court, 74-year-old Karen LeCraft Henderson. According to Ballotpedia, Henderson was appointed 1990 by President George H.W. Bush to fill a seat on the court vacated by Kenneth Starr.
It was Starr who then became the Independent Counsel who led a four-year investigation of Clinton that started by probing an obscure real estate deal involving Clinton, but culminated with Clinton’s impeachment proceedings over his sexual encounter with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and Clinton’s later false statements about the affair, according to a Guardian timeline.
Kavanaugh worked as a law clerk for Starr on the D.C. Circuit Court and later joined Starr’s staff, where he spent about two years of his time there, as the Inquisitr reported, searching for supposed evidence that Hillary Clinton had murdered Clinton family friend Vincent Foster, who had committed suicide.
Henderson will now assume responsibility for the Kavanaugh ethics complaints, even though in many cases, such complaints are referred to other courts to avoid any appearance of conflict or impropriety, BuzzFeed reported. Prior to serving on the D.C Court, Henderson was a judge on the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, a position to which she was named by President Ronald Reagan, according to The New York Times.