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Retired Supreme Court justice speaks out against Kavanaugh nomination

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, appointed by a Republican president, thought Kavanaugh was qualified for the high court. Then he watched last week's hearing.
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens speaks at an event, May 21, 2012, in Washington, D.C.
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens speaks at an event, May 21, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

When Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, he appeared to do at least some harm to his reputation. In the wake of testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused the Supreme Court of sexually assaulting her many years earlier, the Republican jurist presented himself as an enraged and conspiratorial partisan.

Kavanaugh's demeanor and combativeness was largely the opposite of the qualities needed on the nation's highest court -- and one of the institution's former members came to the same conclusion.

The Palm Beach Post's Lulu Ramadan reported this afternoon from a local event with retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a lifelong Republican, told a small crowd in Boca Raton that Judge Brett Kavanaugh's performance at confirmation hearings should disqualify him. "The Senators should pay attention to this."Stevens said he once thought Kavanaugh "had the qualifications" to be a Supreme Court justice and even lauded Kavanaugh in one of his books for a ruling on political contributions. "His performance in the hearings changed my mind."

For context, it's worth emphasizing that Stevens was appointed to the Supreme Court by a Republican president, Gerald Ford, in 1975. Over the course of his lengthy career on the bench, however, Stevens became one of the high court's most progressive members, and ultimately was seen as a reliable "liberal" vote.

Stevens, now 98, retired from the bench in 2010, though he continues to speak out on major legal issues of the day. Earlier this year, for example, the retired justice wrote an op-ed calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.

As for the debate over Kavanaugh, it's hard to say with confidence whether Stevens' advice to the Senate will make much of a difference, but with a procedural vote on the floor scheduled for tomorrow morning, I guess it can't hurt.