'A Future Supreme Court Justice': Law Students Praise Professor Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh
Brett Kavanaugh / Getty Images
July 19, 2018

"I honestly believe I took a class that was instructed by a future Supreme Court justice," wrote a Georgetown student in 2007, one of many glowing reviews of then-professor and now Supreme-Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The reviews, collected by the New York Times from Kavanaugh's time teaching at Georgetown, Harvard, and Yale, reveal an educator who routinely impressed and inspired his students through years of teaching.

"In 12 sets of evaluations spanning 700 pages, there was almost only glowing praise for Judge Kavanaugh's teaching," the Times noted. "More than a few students said he was the most impressive law school professor they had encountered."

Kavanaugh's professorial career was focused mostly at Harvard Law School, with one-time appearances at Yale and Georgetown. Kavanaugh was brought on board at Harvard by then-Dean of the law school Elena Kagan, who would be one of Kavanaugh's colleagues on the Supreme Court if he is confirmed by the Senate. Kavanaugh was already a D.C.-circuit federal appellate judge when he took the HLS teaching position.

At Harvard, Kavanaugh taught during the twelve-weeks of the abbreviated winter term, focusing mostly on separation of powers. He dined regularly with his students, having six or eight to dinner most nights. Those students in turn had little but positivity for Kavanaugh, calling him "the best professor I have had in law school," and his class the "best class I've taken at HLS by a mile."

His conservatism was apparent to students as well, with the rightward bent of the students sticking out — as one student put it, "there was a heavy Federalist Society tilt." But Kavanaugh was viewed as evenhanded, presenting — and hearing — all sides of the argument, not letting his presumably-conservative politics get in the way of teaching and understanding the law.

"While most of the class shared rather conservative views, the judge presented the other side quite well, even though he likely shared most of those conservative views," One student wrote. "Many of the HLS professors could learn from his acceptance of views across the political spectrum."

Students of course had gripes. Some didn't like the casebook he selected for class, although they said it was too left-leaning — Kavanaugh responded that it was the only one which covered the relevant topics. Students also objected that there was so much reading, or that certain students sometimes dominated the conversation. Early critics sometimes called Kavanaugh repetitive and not-well organized, as reflective of his relative inexperience at the time as anything else.

But in spite of these minor concerns, Kavanaugh routinely received descriptors like "outstanding" and "excellent." And, most important of all, according to one student he had "great hair!"

On Thursday, dozens of Kavanaugh's former students signed a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) spelling out their support for the nominee's credentials.

"Judge Kavanaugh was an inspiring professor and impressive intellect. His thoughtful explanations and analyses spoke to the breadth of his legal knowledge. He was also engaging and fair-minded. During classroom discussions, he displayed a keen interest in exploring all sides of a question. Judge Kavanaugh invited robust discussions and consistently encouraged his students to voice different viewpoints—even if others (or the judge himself) might disagree," the letters' authors wrote.

This laudatory tone contrasts sharply with that of a letter issued by a number of students and alumni of Yale Law School, Kavanaugh's alma mater, rebuking the school for its celebratory announcement of Kavanaugh's nomination.

"Judge Kavanaugh's nomination presents an emergency — for democratic life, for our safety and freedom, for the future of our country," the students wrote. "He is a threat to many of us, despite the privilege bestowed by our education, simply because of who we are."

Another group of Yale alumni in turn rebuked the first letter, issuing their own statement last Thursday in support of Kavanaugh.

"We are proud of Judge Kavanaugh's nomination, and believe that his accomplishments and qualifications speak for themselves," the pro-Kavanaugh alumni wrote.

Published under: Brett Kavanaugh