Retired Justice John Paul Stevens: Brett Kavanaugh no longer qualified for Supreme Court

In Boca Raton, the former Justice John Paul Stevens said Kavanaugh's 'performance in the hearings changed my mind.'
In this April 30, 2014, file photo, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testifies on the ever-increasing amount of money spent on elections as he appears before the Senate Rules Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo)
Published Oct. 4, 2018
Updated Oct. 4, 2018

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told a Boca Raton crowd on Thursday that Brett Kavanaugh's performance during a recent Senate hearing should disqualify him from the bench.

Stevens said he once held a high opinion of Kavanaugh, a U.S. Circuit Court judge who clerked for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, and said Kavanaugh "had the qualifications" for the country's highest court. But he added: "His performance in the hearings changed my mind."

"The Senators should pay attention to this," Stevens reportedly said.

The comments were first reported via Twitter by Palm Beach Post reporter Lulu Ramadan, who was at the event.

Stevens, 98, was appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican President Gerald Ford and served as an associate justice until his retirement in 2010.

While a lifelong Republican, he at times sided with liberals on the bench, including writing a dissenting opinion in Bush v. Gore decision. He recently penned an op-ed calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.

At the behest of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the upper chamber will take the first procedural vote Friday on whether to confirm Kavanaugh. The vote was delayed by a week for the FBI to investigate sexual assault allegations made against Ford by a woman who knew Kavanaugh in high school.

The allegations were the subject of a highly viewed Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, in which both Kavanaugh and his accuser testified.

Striking a combative and defiant tone, Kavanaugh defended himself against the accusations and declared himself the victim of a conspiracy by Democrats to smear President Donald Trump and enact revenge for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In response to questions about his behavior in high school, he repeatedly told Senators, "I like beer," but denied he ever failed to remember anything after a night of drinking.

It was this performance that Stevens said should disqualify Kavanaugh. Since then, former classmates have come forward to dispute Kavanaugh's characterization of his drinking habits.

"At that time, I thought (Kavanaugh) had the qualifications for the Supreme Court should he be selected," Stevens said, according to the Post. "I've changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability … I feel his performance in the hearings ultimately changed my mind."

Senators today received the results of the FBI investigation. Democrats have criticized the scope of the investigation.