President Donald Trump announced he is nominating D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, using a prime-time television address on Monday that will kick off a contentious battle in Washington over the replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy and the future of the court. Mr. Kavanaugh, if he is confirmed, will be the fifth Catholic on the nine-person court.
Speaking from the White House, Mr. Trump called Mr. Kavanaugh “judge’s judge, a true thought leader among his peers.”
Mr. Kavanaugh, who was joined at the announcement by his wife and two daughters, took the podium after the president and thanked Mr. Trump for his nomination.
During his remarks, Mr. Kavanaugh highlighted his Catholic faith and Jesuit connections.
“The motto of my Jesuit high school was ‘men for others.’ I have tried to live that creed.”
“The motto of my Jesuit high school was ‘men for others,’” Mr. Kavanaugh said, referencing Georgetown Preparatory School, from which he graduated in 1983. “I have tried to live that creed.”
(The motto “Men for Others” was popularized in a 1973 speech to alumni of Jesuit schools by Pedro Arrupe, S.J., who was then the superior general of the Jesuits. Today, many Jesuit schools use the phrase “Men and Women for Others” or “People for Others,” though Georgetown Prep educates just young men.)
Mr. Kavanaugh also thanked the head of D.C. Catholic Charities, Monsignor John Enzler, who was in the audience.
“I am part of the vibrant Catholic community in the DC area. The members of that community disagree about many things but we are united by a commitment to serve,” Mr. Kavanaugh said. “Father John Enzler is here. Forty years ago I was an altar boy for Father John. These days I help him serve meals to the homeless at Catholic Charities.”
Mr. Kavanaugh was seen as the frontrunner for the nomination. He is often described as a Washington insider, with close ties to the Bush family, and Mr. Trump had said he wanted a candidate who attended Harvard or Yale, like all the justices currently on the court. Mr. Kavanaugh graduated from Yale College and Yale Law School and he has taught a course at Harvard. At 53, Mr. Kavanaugh could be on the court for decades, another attribute favored by the president.
If Mr. Kavanaugh is confirmed, the court will have two graduates of Georgetown Prep. Justice Neil Gorsuch graduated from the school just two years after Mr. Kavanaugh. Washingtonian magazine reports that Mr. Kavanaugh was part of the student newspaper and captain of the school’s basketball team.
“I am part of the vibrant Catholic community in the DC area. The members of that community disagree about many things but we are united by a commitment to serve.”
Today, Mr. Kavanaugh is a lector at Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Washington and a volunteer for D.C. Catholic Charities, according to his official biography. He also tutors at the Washington Jesuit Academy, a Catholic middle school.
Justin Walker, who teaches law at the University of Louisville and who once clerked for both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Kavanaugh, wrote an essay at the National Review in which he called Mr. Kavanaugh a champion for religious liberty.
“Whether you agree with him or not—and many liberals do not—Judge Kavanaugh has been a steadfast and fearless supporter of religious liberty for decades,” Mr. Walker wrote.
“When he was in private practice in the 1990s, he chaired the Federalist Society’s Religious Liberty practice group and worked pro bono on cases defending religious freedom,” Mr. Walker continued. “He wrote pro bono amicus briefs defending religious believers in high-profile Supreme Court cases. He represented a synagogue pro bono in a local zoning dispute. He advocated for the selection of judges who protect religious liberty. And as a judge himself, his record of defending religious liberty is unparalleled.”
Mr. Kavanaugh worked for Kenneth Starr during the investigation of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and later as an aide to President George W. Bush. His broad views on presidential impeachment have raised eyebrows in recent days, as Mr. Trump’s campaign continues to be investigated by a special counsel.
Mr. Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley, the former personal secretary to President George W. Bush, have two daughters. If Mr. Kavanaugh is confirmed, the religious makeup of the court will remain unchanged: five will be Catholic, three Jewish and one Protestant. (Justice Gorsuch was raised Catholic but now attends an Episcopal church.)
“Whether you agree with him or not—and many liberals do not—Judge Kavanaugh has been a steadfast and fearless supporter of religious liberty for decades.”
Mr. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said they want to confirm the nominee before November elections. Democratic leaders have argued that there should not be a vote until after elections. They cite Mr. McConnell’s refusal to hold hearings in 2016 for Merrick Garland, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. After taking office, Mr. Trump nominated Justice Gorsuch, who was confirmed by a 54-45 mostly party-line vote in the U.S. Senate last year.
This story was updated with quotes from Mr. Kavanaugh's address.