Statement on the Brett Kavanaugh Proceedings

Professor Yasmine Ergas, Director of the Gender and Public Policy Specialization, makes a personal statement speaking out against Brett Kavanaugh. Unlike, cough cough, many of those within the Columbia University and SIPA Administration.

By Yasmine Ergas

I believe that Judge Kavanaugh should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court. As the letter from the law professors published in the New York Times (which I have signed) clearly states, judicial temperament is a key factor in determining the appropriateness of a nominee.  Judge Kavanaugh demonstrated in the Senate hearings that he can, and does, direct his ire, and his bullying tone, towards those who question his behavior. Temperament (such as the arrogance evinced by the presumption that a person questioned can answer by attacking the questioner, evasiveness and the refusal to accept accountability) is directly relevant to the question of credibility. And the Supreme Court must be credible. To bully your way to the Court is to elevate bullying to a judicial qualification.

But I also believe that Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation must be read in the broader context of the politics of backlash that this Administration has unleashed. That backlash directly targets women’s rights and gender equality. At the heart of women’s rights and gender equality is the ability to be safe in your body: without that safety, you cannot operate securely in the world.  It is the first condition of citizenship.  We know that such safety is given to too few, and that it is profoundly skewed by race, ethnicity and class.  We know, too, that the voices of those who have been attacked have been silenced by fear, despair at the lack of social supports, indifference, shame, unfair legal and decision-making processes -- and ridicule. It is vital that we have courts that understand the gravity of these injuries and their direct connection to gender inequality. That is what the present politics of backlash, and, I fear, Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, endanger. The US Supreme Court, the most important court of the United States and one of the most influential courts in the world, deserves better. We all do. 

Yasmine Ergas

Gender & Public Policy Specialization

School of International and Public Affairs

Columbia University