These complaints were initially received by the U.S. Court of Appeals prior to Kavanaugh’s seating on the Supreme Court. Chief Judge Merrick Garland — whose nomination to the Supreme Court was blocked by Senate Republicans—recused himself from the matter. The complaints were then passed to Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, whom President George H.W. Bush nominated to the bench.
Judge Henderson dismissed some of the complaints made against Judge Kavanaugh as frivolous. But she concluded that more than a dozen complaints were substantive enough to warrant investigation by an impartial panel and that they should not be handled by Judge Kavanaugh’s fellow judges in the D.C. Circuit. She referred them to Chief Justice Roberts, who has now referred them to the 10th Circuit.
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The situation is unique in that never before has a Supreme Court appointee joined the court at a time when a fellow judge has concluded that misconduct claims against that appointee warrant review and when a former Supreme Court Justice has concluded that the appointee’s behavior was disqualifying.
Technically, Supreme Court justices are not subject to the misconduct rules governing these claims. But if complaints against a sitting Justice are not dealt with in an impartial apolitical manner, then there will be an asterisk against Judge Tymkovich and Justice Kavanaugh for the remainder of their terms, and indeed the U.S. Supreme Court itself.
There is therefore a risk that Mitch McConnell's seeming accomplishment of a “rock-solid Republican majority on the Supreme Court for a generation” may yet turn out to be something of a Pyrrhic victory.