The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

The Best Parts of the Kavanaugh Hearing

A great set of colloquies on originalism, the Federalist, and human imperfection.


I confess that I have previously mocked the idea that judicial confirmation hearings can be a good tool of public education, and I might have been too hasty to do so. This afternoon I happened to tune in to a discussion between Senator Mike Lee and Judge Brett Kavanaugh that highlighted very well several important principles of constitutional law. It just might be worth showing to entering law students.

First, there was a colloquy in which Judge Kavanaugh explained that he is a "public meaning originalist," (contra Eric Posner), and also provided some useful clarifications about what originalism is:

(Towards the end of the explanation he also mentioned the "liquidation of the meaning by historical practice," a topic that is of course near and dear to my heart.)

Second, Senator Lee asks Judge Kavanaugh: "Do you have a favorite among the Federalist Papers?" which causes Judge Kavanaugh to break out into a grin before giving a long answer synthesizing Federalists 10, 37, 39, 47, 51, 69, and 78.

(And another shout-out to "liquidation"!)

And while I had been planning to post only those two clips, I was also caught by a final exchange on human fallibility and constitutional structure.

I was already very pleased by the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. Now I am even more so.