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Kavanaugh’s Mentor


Here’s a story that touches on one the most egregious howlers Brett Kavanaugh told at his Judiciary Committee hearings:

A few years ago, as she was prepping to interview for a judicial clerkship, a student at Yale Law School received a troubling combination of warning and advice from her professors about one federal judge in particular: Brett Kavanaugh, she was told, liked his female clerks to have a “certain look.”

Right now Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court hangs in the balance as he faces an accusation that he sexually assaulted a girl in high school.

The professors proffering the advice are themselves well-known. Both Jed Rubenfeld and his wife, Amy Chua, author of the controversial 2011 book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, told this woman about Kavanaugh’s preferences. Then, Kavanaugh was simply known as a prestigious judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Though neither said the judge did anything untoward regarding the women he worked with, the student found their counsel off-putting.

“I had mixed feelings,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns. “On the one hand, it’s a yellow flag; on the other hand, phew, I hadn’t heard anything else.”

Her first inkling that there might be issues with Kavanaugh came from Rubenfeld in a conversation about various judges with whom she might work.

Rubenfeld took care to warn her about two judges in particular: First, Alex Kozinski, then a judge on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, was known to sexually harass his clerks, he told her. (Kozinski retired in December amid accusations of harassment.)

The other was Kavanaugh. Though the judge was known to hire female clerks who had a “certain look,” Rubenfeld told her, he emphasized that he had heard nothing else untoward.

“He did not say what the ‘certain look’ was. I did not ask,” the woman said. “It was very clear to me that he was talking about physical appearance, because it was phrased as a warning ― and because it came after the warning about Judge Kozinski.”

The woman said that she had already heard rumors about Kozinski and had ruled out a clerkship with him.

Kavaugh claims he didn’t know about Kozinski. These claims are just massive, intelligence-insulting lies.

In a related story, his former clerk Heidi Bond revealed the contents of some of the material that Kozinski sent to his clerks unsolicited before pressuring them to join his pervo mailing list. You might have gotten the impression that these were marginally inappropriate but basically innocuous sex jokes. Some were, and some — especially the last one discusses — aren’t really so much “jokes” as unspeakably vile MRA stroke fantasies. (“My estranged wife’s 18-year-old sister came by to serve me with a restraining order…and I sodomized her! Dhat’s da joke!” The “joke” is just one of those after the other, like “The Aristocrats” re-written by Elliot Rodger.) Imagine how much you’d have to hate women not only to find this funny but to send it unsolicited to your young female subordinates. Just for myself, not really the guy I’d want presiding over, say, a case involving strip-searching a 13-year-old girl based on uncorroborated accusations that she possessed prescription-based ibuprofen. And for Kavanaugh to assert that he saw nothing amiss…please.

Incidentally, in 1998 Edward Lazurus published a book called Closed Chambers, which discussed his time clerking on the Court at a time when it was beginning to emerge into its contemporary polarized form. It’s a pretty good book — he gets over his skis a little when he tries to put a grand-theoretic spin on things, but his information about the inner workings of the Court is valuable, and there really should be more of them. Anyway, Kozinski wrote a truly vicious review of the book, focused on Lazurus’s violation of the Court’s self-serving, contrary-to-the-public-interest omerta. At least we know that this was motivated purely by abstract considerations and not crude self-interest!

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