Chief Justice Roberts Refers Kavanaugh Ethics Complaints To Appeals Court Judges

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian/Public Domain

Chief Justice John Roberts took no action on the complaints during now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process.

Chief Justice John Roberts referred complaints against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, originally filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to federal judges in Colorado and neighboring states, according to PBS NewsHour.

All of the 15 complaints relate to statements Kavanaugh made during his confirmation hearings.

> Roberts took no action on them while Kavanaugh’s nomination was pending. He received the first three of 15 eventual complaints on Sept. 20, a week before Kavanaugh’s angry denial of a sexual assault allegation by Christine Blasey Ford.

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> It’s possible the complaints will never be investigated if the lower-court judges determine they have no jurisdiction over a Supreme Court justice under the judiciary’s ethics rules.

University of Pittsburgh ethics professor Arthur Hellman said the judges might conclude “that intervening events have rendered the allegations moot or make remedial action impossible.”

However, Stephen Gillers of New York University disagreed.

> Kavanaugh remains a federal judge and the complaints “allege misconduct that occurred while Kavanaugh was on the D.C. Circuit and subject to the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. Any violation of the Code does not disappear because he is now on another federal court,” Gillers said in an email.

Gillers added that the complaints ultimately “may be found not to be meritorious in the end.”

> The judiciary’s rules allow members of the public to lodge complaints about federal judges. They typically are dealt with by experienced judges in the courthouse or region where a judge serves. Judges who receive complaints have a range of options that include dismissing them out of hand, having local judges investigate them or asking Roberts, in his capacity as head of the federal judiciary, to assign the complaints to judges in a different part of the country.

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> The first public word of the complaints came Saturday when D.C. Circuit Judge Karen Henderson acknowledged that complaints about Kavanaugh had been filed. They only “seek investigations … of the public statements he has made as a nominee to the Supreme Court,” Henderson said in a statement. Details of the complaints have not been made public.

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