Did Kavanaugh Know About His Mentor's Alleged Sexual Harassment?

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President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee was close to a former judge who has been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct by over 12 women. Was Brett Kavanaugh aware?

As President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh readies for next month's confirmation hearings, Senate Democrats expect to question him on his relationship with former Judge Alex Kozinski, whose sexual harassment scandal forced him into retirement last year.

Kavanaugh clerked for the former judge in the early 1990s, but the two men’s relationship appears to have grown over the years, as Kozinski was one of Kavanaugh’s early mentors.

The former judge even introduced the appellate court judge Kavanaugh at his Senate confirmation hearing in 2006.

“By their own telling, Judge Kozinski and Brett Kavanaugh have a close relationship,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) said. “The allegations against Judge Kozinski that led to his resignation were extremely disturbing.”

“I’ve seen press reports that many of his clerks knew of his behavior and that he maintained an email list where he would distribute offensive material. Given all this, there are questions about whether Kavanaugh was aware of this behavior,” she explained.

Feinstein isn’t the only one who’s concerned.  

“Given Judge Kavanaugh’s close relationship with former Judge Alex Kozinski, the subject of numerous harassment complaints, we need to know what Judge Kavanaugh knew and his views on this serious problem,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaiian Democrat, through a spokesperson.

Being part of the the Judiciary Committee, the Democrat hopes to grill the judge on why he reportedly remained silent if he knew anything about his mentor’s inappropriate actions.

But according to the White House, the judge “had never heard any allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment" before the accusations were first reported last year. Yet some of the allegations date to decades ago, long before Kavanaugh clerked for the judge.

Still, if the Supreme Court nominee was aware of just one of the more than a dozen allegations against Kozinski, critics suggest he should be treated as an accomplice.

As Politico explains, there seems to be no evidence to question Kavanaugh’s claim that he was not aware of any misconduct while clerking for the now-former judge. However, Democrats are unconvinced and hope to bring the subject up to see how the nominee responds.

In tweets published by one of Kozinski’s accusers, former clerk Heidi Bond, writing under the pen name Courtney Milan, said that while she had no idea of what Kavanaugh knew while working for Kozinski, she hopes Democrats will ask him whether he witnessed anything.

“Did Kozinski use demeaning language about clerkship applicants as part of the screening process, and what did he do about it?” she tweeted.

According to the former judge’s accusers, he shared explicit material among colleagues, touched and kissed women against their will, and even reportedly squeezed the breasts of a now-retired federal judge after she refused his advances and offers of sex.

Despite Kavanaugh’s connection with Kozinski, some of the anti-sexual assault activists looking forward to the confirmation hearing are not just interested in how he fares while talking about his mentor’s accusations. They are also looking forward to how the nominee will respond when asked what he plans to do about harassment in the judiciary.

Fatima Goss Graves, president of the nonprofit National Women’s Law Center, an organization that fights for women's rights, is one of them.

“I haven’t seen him disavow [Kozinski’s] conduct. That’s a starting point,” she said.

At a time when the Me Too movement prompts questions surrounding what is appropriate behavior in the workplace and beyond, it is incredibly crucial to know exactly how a potential Supreme Court nominee justice would rule in a sexual harassment case. Hopefully, Kavanaugh's responses will convey his direction. 

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

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