By Amit Agarwal
Until President Trump nominated him for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court Monday night, most Americans had never heard of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Who is he, beyond his resume? What’s he really like? As someone who served as his law clerk from 2006 to 2007, I may be able to provide some answers.
During his 12 years on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Kavanaugh has had many law clerks. It was my immense good fortune to be one of them.
Much has been said about Judge Kavanaugh’s brilliance, judicial temperament and commitment to the rule of law. As law clerks, we saw those qualities in action every day. But we also got to know the judge as a human being. As the confirmation process gets underway, I hope the Senate and the nation will too. They will like what they see.
For example, Judge Kavanaugh is a devoted husband and father of two girls. Back when I worked for him, he was a brand new dad. I still remember the judge beaming as he played hide-and-go-seek in chambers with his 1-year-old daughter, who would laugh and shriek with delight as he sang her name out loud while inching closer and closer to her hiding spot. Eleven years later, he continues to relish his role as a father.
Judge Kavanaugh is the author of almost 300 judicial opinions, sits on the nation’s most influential federal appeals court, and teaches a course on the separation of powers at Harvard. But somehow he finds time to coach both of his girls’ basketball teams.
The judge also goes out of his way to spend time with his clerks and to be a part of their lives. Frequent lunches with him are one of the many joys of the job. He travels the country to attend clerk weddings, and every year he invites his extended family of clerks to go see his beloved Washington Nationals baseball team.
At the end of the term, he treats his clerks to dinner to thank them and chat about their future goals. And he and his wife, Ashley, host an annual holiday dinner for all his past and present law clerks and their significant others at their home.
Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. Clerking for Judge Kavanaugh was hard work. I remember he was toiling away on New Year’s Day and expected us to be there too. Late that afternoon, the judge walked over to where my co-clerks and I were working. He looked uncharacteristically sad. Then we found out why.
Judge Kavanaugh explained that his wife “called and said we all have to call it a day and go home.” I couldn’t help laughing. Like it or not, the judge was always candid in acknowledging – and gracious in following – controlling authority.
Still, we didn’t mind the long hours. We knew that Judge Kavanaugh worked harder – much harder – than anyone else, which inspired us to give it our all.
The judge brings the same boundless energy and enthusiasm to everything he does. He is a two-time Boston marathoner, and he has repeatedly earned the title of “fastest judge” in the ACLI Capital Challenge race. Even in chambers, he was hard to keep up with.
It has been 11 years since I left the judge’s chambers, and eight years since I’ve moved to Florida with my family. I still call him for guidance whenever I have to make an important decision. His response is always the same: He listens carefully, offers his own view, and then asks a simple but extraordinarily generous question: “How can I help?”
I can count on one hand the number of people in my life who regularly ask me that question and mean it. It is astonishing to me that one of them is a former boss who also happens to be one of the most distinguished judges in the country.
Over the years, Judge Kavanaugh has helped me and his other clerks in countless ways. Most of all, he has taught us what it means to be a good and decent man, who works tirelessly and strives for perfection, but still finds time for family, friends, and the things that really matter.
This is the Judge Kavanaugh I know and admire, and from whom I have learned so much. I was proud to work for him, and I hope the country will get to know that man as well.