Colleagues steal show on Kavanaugh’s first day
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.
Attorney Brenda Bryn argues a case in a courtroom sketch on Brett Kavanaugh’s debut on the Supreme Court.