WASHINGTON — Locust Valley prep school teacher Louisa Garry on Friday told a Senate hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh that she took her students to meet him at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to learn about the judiciary.
Kavanaugh, she said, spent more than an hour explaining his role as judge, discussing current issues facing the federal Court of Appeals, answering her Friends Academy students' questions and listening to their views.
“As we left the federal court, a couple of students immediately remarked, ‘We couldn’t tell — is he conservative or liberal? Can you tell us?’ I responded, ‘That's how it’s supposed to be. The judiciary is supposed to be independent,’” Garry said.
Garry, who has hosted Kavanaugh and his family regularly at her Montauk home and has been friends with him since they met on their first day at Yale University 35 years ago, was one of 26 witnesses, evenly divided between his supporters and opponents, to testify Friday.
On the last day of his contentious confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the experts and advocates presented starkly different views of Kavanaugh.
They split on Kavanaugh’s embrace of strong presidential powers, an issue Democrats repeatedly raised by asking if President Donald Trump could avoid a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller in his Russia investigation — or even fire him at will. Kavanaugh declined to answer.
“Under Judge Kavanaugh’s view, even if a president shot someone in cold blood on 5th Avenue, that president could not be prosecuted while in office,” said John Dean, the former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon who testified against him in the Watergate scandal.
Liberal Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar, however, said, “Many of Kavanaugh’s views about the executive branch are quite standard. On several other executive-branch topics, Kavanaugh’s views are not yet conventional wisdom but are nevertheless sound."
Theodore Olson, Paul Clement and Maureen Mahoney, who have argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court, praised Kavanaugh as an attentive judge who asks hard questions but remains personable.
And Kavanaugh's former law clerks and friends, several of them liberals, depicted him as a smart, thoughtful judge who mentors minority and women students and lawyers and has a wide circle of friends with diverse political views.
But liberal NYU Law School professor Melissa Murray said Kavanaugh's rulings indicate he will vote to erode Roe v. Wade and other rights. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said the judge is undermining affirmative action and voting rights.
Rochelle Garza, a Brownsville, Texas, lawyer, decried Kavanaugh’s ruling, later overturned, that delayed a young unlawful immigrant’s legal abortion, putting her through agony and in danger and requiring that she undergo a riskier surgical procedure.
The appearance of Dean brought back memories of an era more than four decades ago when, much like today, a polarizing president become embroiled in hyperpartisan politics and faced a special counsel and talk of impeachment.
Garry, a registered Democrat who has appeared in an ad for the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network urging Kavanaugh’s confirmation, called her appearance at the hearing Friday “scary” and reflected on her friendship with a conservative in today's partisan divide.
She said Kavanagh told her she might be asked to testify and said, "You should think about whether you're comfortable with it."
“This was not an easy decision, but I decided that to be silenced because I felt bullied, because I worried about backlash, was not being true to our friendship,” Garry said. “And so, in many ways, I think that was in response to the polarization.”