Brett Kavanaugh hit the ground running this weekend after the Senate finally confirmed him to the Supreme Court. He immediately took the oath of office in a private ceremony to complete the appointment, although the White House will hold a ceremonial swearing-in later this evening as well. Justice Kavanaugh showed up yesterday in chambers, scoring a historic first with his choice of clerks, as the New York Times’ Adam Liptak reported:
A day after the bitter fight over his nomination ended in his elevation to the Supreme Court, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was in his new chambers on Sunday, preparing for the arguments the court is to hear as it enters the second week of its term. …
Justice Kavanaugh met with his four law clerks, all women — a first for the Supreme Court — in chambers that had until recently been occupied by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who has moved to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s old chambers. …
Justice Kavanaugh said in his testimony last month that he had started to take action to address the underrepresentation of women among law clerks after reading a 2006 article in The New York Times noting that only seven of 37 Supreme Court clerks were women.
“A majority of my 48 law clerks over the last 12 years have been women,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “In my time on the bench, no federal judge — not a single one in the country — has sent more women law clerks to clerk on the Supreme Court than I have.”
Indeed, as Liptak notes, he can expect to see some familiar faces:
This term, six of his former clerks are working at the Supreme Court, double the number of any other appeals court judge. Four of them are women.
Kavanaugh had testified about this in his hearing in one of the more substantive moments in a ridiculous circus, a moment that had been mainly forgotten until yesterday. Only one of the four women clerked for Kavanaugh in the past — Kim Jackson, Yale Law 2017, who is also African-American. That point caused Jonathan Adler to quip that Kavanaugh has already caught up to Notorious RBG:
This term, Justice Brett Kavanaugh has already hired as many African-American law clerks as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has in her entire 25-year tenure. https://t.co/0xOQ9tmTGI
— Jonathan H. Adler (@jadler1969) October 7, 2018
National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle briefly profiles all four women at National Law Journal. Sara Nommensen (Harvard Law 2016) is a former student of Kavanaugh’s who also signed a letter of support for him during his confirmation inquisition. Shannon Grammel (Stanford Law 2017) clerked for conservative jurist J. Harvie Wilkinson on the Fourth Circuit, who is also known for sending clerks to the Supreme Court. The choice of Megan Lacy (University of Virginia School of Law 2010) is more notable for her previous work as counsel for Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley.
Coyle also points out that Kavanaugh has a long history of diverse selection of clerks, not just demographically but also ideologically:
On the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh hired 25 women and 23 men as law clerks. His four clerks from 2014 to 2015 were women, and 21 of the 25 he hired went on to U.S. Supreme Court clerkships. His 48 clerks represented diverse background and viewpoints.
With Kavanaugh’s elevation, law school graduates lose an opportunity for an appellate clerkship with one of the top “feeder judges” to the justices who are now his colleagues.
Kavanaugh sent 39 of his 48 clerks to the Supreme Court, including clerks serving justices in the current term. Although most of those clerks have gone to the conservative justices—with Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. hiring 13, the largest number—Kavanaugh sent two each to justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and one to Stephen Breyer. No former Kavanaugh clerk has gone on to clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
That should ease the transition somewhat this week for Kavanaugh, even though Elena Kagan appeared to go out of her way to make it awkward on Friday night. Eventually, however, the Supreme Court will get down to business. Kavanaugh’s getting a jump start on that process, and perhaps even getting ahead of them.