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Conscience Magazine

Justice Kavanaugh Tried to Sidestep Abortion Cases

September 15, 2020

IN A SERIES OF PRIVATE memoranda this spring, US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh urged his colleagues to consider avoiding decisions in major disputes over abortion and subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s financial records, CNN reported exclusively.

Kavanaugh wanted the justices to sidestep any ruling on the merits of a Louisiana law that could have closed abortion clinics in the state. On March 4, the Court’s last day of in-person oral arguments before isolating due to COVID-19 restrictions, they heard oral arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, a challenge to a Louisiana abortion law that requires physicians who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

According to sources, in a series of private memos to his colleagues in mid-March, Kavanaugh began making his case for returning the dispute to a trial court judge to gather more facts on just how onerous the admitting privileges requirement was. Kavanaugh’s suggestion would have kept the law blocked in the short term while the case moved back through the legal system.

Throughout the recent Court session, CNN reports, as Kavanaugh revealed a desire to avoid certain thorny dilemmas, he also demonstrated a pattern of trying to publicly appeal to both sides. His style of accommodation was on display in recent disputes over gay and transgender workers and, separately, undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

The details show how the Court’s newest justice is approaching his role on the bench. Behind closed doors, he looks to please dueling factions as he seeks to move beyond the angry and defiant image he projected in 2018.