Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has referred more than a dozen ethics complaints about former circuit court judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado. Chief Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich will now handle the processing of the complaints, according to Denver’s 9News.
Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, from the D.C. Circuit Court where Kavanaugh previously worked as a federal judge — and where the complaints were lodged — said that they do not relate to his time as a judge serving on that bench, per Time.
“The complaints do not pertain to any conduct in which Judge Kavanaugh engaged as a judge. The complaints seek investigations only of the public statements he has made as a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The reason that Henderson requested the transfer to a different court is her concern that processing the complaints in Kavanaugh’s old district would be questionable due to the contentious nature of his confirmation hearing — and that it could undermine public confidence in the process. The complaints had originally been assigned to Judge Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, but he recused himself from handling them — presumably because of the circumstances surrounding his own failed Supreme Court nomination.
Garland was originally nominated for the Court by President Barack Obama, but never got a hearing because the Republican-controlled Senate balked, holding out for the chance to appoint a conservative justice under a Republican president. That strategy worked, providing a path for Justice Neil Gorsuch to ascend to the highest court in early 2017.
Forbes states that Judge Henderson went through all of the complaints and dismissed some of them as frivolous, but found more than a dozen of them to be credible enough to warrant an impartial investigation. All of the complaints were received by Kavanaugh’s old circuit court after September 20 and all related to his disposition during the hearing. More than 2,400 judges signed off on a letter presented to the Senate on October 4, 2018, stating that they felt Kavanaugh did not display the necessary temperament to receive the honor of being a Supreme Court Justice. The New York Times printed the letter in its entirety.
“We regret that we feel compelled to write to you, our Senators, to provide our views that at the Senate hearings on Sept. 27, Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.”
Since Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed for the Court, it is unclear what may happen if the allegations are found to be actionable. Only Congress can remove a sitting Justice, and with Republicans controlling the votes in the Senate, his removal is unlikely.