Col­leagues steal show on Ka­vanaugh’s first day

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Richard Wolf

WASH­ING­TON – Newly minted Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh didn’t have to pinch him­self Tues­day as he took his seat for the first time. There was enough pinch­ing at the other end of the bench. Three days af­ter his Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion as the na­tion’s 114th jus­tice, Ka­vanaugh played an ac­tive role dur­ing his first two oral ar­gu­ments. He ques­tioned lawyers on both sides about Supreme Court prece­dents. He apol­o­gized at one point for in­ter­rupt­ing, which the jus­tices do with reg­u­lar­ity. In gen­eral, he fit right in. But Ka­vanaugh’s new col­leagues stole the show, play-act­ing their way through two cases deal­ing with states’ ap­pli­ca­tions of a fed­eral law that re­quires tougher sen­tences for gun crimes com­mit­ted af­ter three “se­ri­ous” or “vi­o­lent” felonies. Chief Jus­tice John Roberts re­counted grip­ping a dol­lar bill and hav­ing each of his law clerks try to pull it out of his hand to see whether it could qual­ify as an act of vi­o­lence. “It re­quires a lot of force, more than you might think,” Roberts said. As­so­ciate Jus­tice Sa­muel Al­ito asked whether shov­ing, grab­bing and pinch­ing met the law’s re­quire­ment for phys­i­cal force. That got As­so­ciate Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor won­der­ing whether an “or­di­nary” pinch causes pain. She ap­peared to pinch As­so­ciate Jus­tice Neil Gor­such to il­lus­trate. “Is that suf­fi­cient force?” she asked Brenda Bryn, the lawyer for De­nard Stoke­l­ing, who risked re­ceiv­ing a 15year sen­tence un­der the fed­eral Armed Ca­reer Crim­i­nal Act be­cause of a prior un­armed rob­bery con­vic­tion. Gor­such looked be­mused but not pained. Ka­vanaugh looked right at home. For his first two hours on the high court bench, the con­ser­va­tive, 12-year veteran of the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the District of Columbia Cir­cuit laughed along­side lib­eral As­so­ciate Jus­tice Elena Ka­gan, who first hired him to teach con­sti­tu­tional law at Har­vard Law School when she was dean. Sit­ting in a spe­cial sec­tion of the court­room for distin­guished guests were his wife, Ash­ley Estes Ka­vanaugh, and daugh­ters, Mar­garet and Liza. Ka­vanaugh’s par­ents, Martha and Ed, sat in the main gallery. There were no protesters in the court­room, but about 40 fe­male protesters greeted Ka­vanaugh when he ar­rived at the court’s back en­trance early Tues­day morn­ing.

DANA VERKOUTEREN/AP

At­tor­ney Brenda Bryn ar­gues a case in a court­room sketch on Brett Ka­vanaugh’s de­but on the Supreme Court.

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