A federal court panel has dismissed 20 legal appeals involving misconduct complaints lodged against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Judicial Council had been asked to look into 83 initial complaints filed against Kavanaugh, during his 12-year service on the DC-based federal appeals court. They were filed around the time of contentious Senate confirmation to the high court last year.
The 10th Circuit’s internal council in December tossed out those complaints, concluding Kavanaugh was no longer covered by the process, since he was now a Justice.
“Because the intervening event in this matter resulted in the loss of jurisdiction,” said the court, referring to Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court, “this Council does not have the authority to investigate or make findings upon which to base any remedial action.”
Justices of the Supreme Court are not subject to a code of conduct or disciplinary process like lower federal judges.
The nature of the complaints were not disclosed.
Chief Justice John Roberts — Kavanaugh’s new colleague — had initially referred the matter to the Denver appeals court. Two judges on the 10th Circuit panel dissented and recused in the dismissal of the appeals, saying that panel should not have been involved in both the initial review and the subsequent appeals.
“I am left to conclude that the entire Council should be disqualified from participating in consideration of the current petitions for review,” wrote Judge Mary Beck Briscoe. “And, in turn, I conclude that the petitions for review should be considered by a different body, specifically the Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability.” Judge Carlos Lucero agreed.
A group advocating for court reforms praised the dissenting opinions.
“Judge Briscoe and Lucero have stuck their necks out in a way that is to be commended,” said Gabe Roth of Fix the Court. “Of course there is little recourse or reprimand for a Supreme Court justice accused of misconduct, so today’s result is not surprising. That said, it is critical for our nation’s leading jurists to recognize a conflict of interest when they see one and having a council rule on a case that they’ve previously judged would seem to be a textbook definition of such a conflict.”