Knopf: Trump’s Supreme Court pick would erode checks and balances | SummitDaily.com

Knopf: Trump’s Supreme Court pick would erode checks and balances

Susan Knopf
Guest column

We have established that President Trump is a bully who has surrounded himself with con men and grifters. Just yesterday Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chair, was tried and found guilty on eight counts of fraud. Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight violations of campaign finance, tax and banking laws.

In an obvious effort to save his own skin, Trump is nominating a guy for the Supreme Court who happens to think the president is above the law.

It's an interesting flip in point of view. Brett Kavanaugh was the lead prosecutor and author on Kenneth Starr's team investigating President Clinton two decades ago. The Starr investigation cost the taxpayers $70 million. It took over four years, for those complaining about the Mueller probe. The investigation turned up only a semen-stained dress. I thought the purpose of government is to insure the health, safety and welfare of our citizens.

In a 2012 Minnesota Law Review article, Kavanaugh aptly points out, "the job of President is far more difficult than any other civilian position in government." After watching Clinton and Bush initiate wars without consent of Congress, and face efforts to check their abuses of power using our constitutional system of checks and balances, Kavanaugh concludes:

"… the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office. This is not something I necessarily thought in the 1980s or 1990s. Like many Americans at that time, I believed that the President should be required to shoulder the same obligations that we all carry. But in retrospect, that seems a mistake. Looking back to the late 1990s, for example, the nation certainly would have been better off if President Clinton could have focused on Osama bin Laden without being distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case …"

You think? But what if the president did something really bad, like conspire with the Russians? According to Kavanaugh: "… we should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions."

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Putting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court bench could weaken our system of checks and balances. Kavanaugh does not believe the Justice Department should pursue actions against a sitting president. The founders of our country crafted a balanced system between the executive branch (the president), the legislative branch (Congress) and the judicial branch. Each checks the other to prevent totalitarianism. We now have a Republican Congress unwilling to stand up to their own party's president. If you put a man on the Supreme Court bench who does not accept his responsibility to check the authority of the presidency, then he could be the deciding vote that undermines our government.

There are Kavanaugh's extreme right-wing political positions he has used to weaken laws designed to protect citizens. CivilRights.org does an excellent job listing Kavanaugh's rulings which hurt Americans. I encourage you to check it out. Here are some highlights:

Kavanaugh ruled against the Justice Department in 2012, when it challenged a South Carolina voter ID law. BrennanCenter.org has a long list of studies that voter impersonation fraud is nearly non-existent. The Republican National Lawyers Association study concurs with this conclusion. Kavanaugh ruled against the Justice Department, which sought to overturn a law that places undue burden on citizens to correct a problem that doesn't exist. Is that the guy you want on the Supreme Court? A guy who isn't really interested in upholding the law for the benefit of the people. Kavanaugh is simply a shill, advancing Republican myths and suppressing voters.

In cases cited at CivilRights.org, Kavanaugh consistently wrote minority opinions which if implemented would reduce protections under the law for minority employees and older workers. Kavanaugh writes that federal employees do not enjoy the same protections under the law that protect private sector employees. Take note if you work for the federal government.

For those of us who work in the ski industry, beware — when a worker was killed at Sea World, Kavanaugh was the lone dissenter: "When should we as a society paternalistically decide that the participants in these sports and entertainment activities must be protected from themselves — that the risk of significant physical injury is simply too great even for eager and willing participants?"

In Kavanaugh's world, because we work in a dangerous field, we should not be protected under the law, like anybody else. Former Occupational Safety and Health Administration assistant secretary David Michaels said, "In his dissent in the SeaWorld decision, Judge Kavanaugh made the perverse and erroneous assertion that the law allows SeaWorld trainers to willingly accept the risk of violent death as part of their job. He clearly has little regard for workers who face deadly hazards at the workplace."

Kavanaugh consistently votes to protect polluters over the environment. In case after case he votes against the EPA. He opposes the Chevron doctrine upheld by Justice Scalia, calling it administrative overreach, thus disempowering our federal agencies to enforce laws enacted by Congress.

As you read through Kavanaugh's cases, you find he is often the lone dissenter, taking views that diminish rights of the individual, don't hold business and government accountable, supress voters' rights, women's rights and minority rights, and weaken the time-honored separation of church and state. Roe v. Wade is almost the least of our concerns. It's no wonder.

The nomination of Kavanaugh was outsourced to the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. According to CivilRights.org, just 4 percent of lawyers are members, and yet ALL of Trump's court nominees come from these two extreme, out-of-the-mainstream groups. Do we really want a Supreme Court justice that is so far right and out of touch with what's important to the majority of Americans?

Kavanaugh has less courtroom experience than virtually any Republican or Democratic D.C. Circuit judicial nominee in over 30 years, according to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The Leadership Conference lists more than 200 members including AARP, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and The American Association of People with Disabilities. The Conference staunchly opposes the Kavanaugh nomination. We should too.

Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident. She has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting.