Two weeks ago marked the end of one the most bitter confirmation battles for a nominee to the United States Supreme Court in recent history. In a tight vote of 50 to 48, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Donald J. Trump’s nominee and replaced Antony Kennedy with Brett Kavanaugh. The president’s pick in a less partisan Washington would have been a smooth confirmation process, but before and after Kavanaugh was chosen, many made clear their opposition to whoever was nominated. After the first hearing for Kavanaugh’s nomination, everything was sailing easily for the new Supreme Court Justice, until Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault.
Ford claimed in a letter that was forwarded to Senator Diane Feinstein, the ranking Democrat of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, that “Brett Kavanaugh physically and sexually assaulted me during high school in the early 1980’s.” The text was leaked to the press against the expressed wishes of the victim, who wrote that she expected the letter and the matter to stay confidential “until we have further opportunity to speak.”
Ford’s writing created an ongoing political firestorm which led to Ford and Kavanaugh testifying in front of the Senate’s judiciary committee. However, even before this took place, many in the press, politicians, and activists had already decided that Kavanaugh was guilty and thus unfit to serve in the court, tossing aside one of the most precious rights we enjoy: the presumption of innocence.
Burden of Proof
The presumption of innocence is a right with a long and important history. It puts the burden of proof on the accuser and the prosecution, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt of the accused guilt. This is not a right to be taken lightly. It is a safeguard to prevent the government from using its power to end our ordered liberty.
Many may point out that Kavanaugh’s case is a confirmation process instead of a criminal trial, and they are right, but this does not mean that we should throw away this cherish principle or due process for the accused as some suggest.
Pres. Trump calls allegations against his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, "totally political."
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 25, 2018
The testimony by Ford was heart-throbbing, sincere, painful, and deeply compelling. We must give credit to her for having the courage for speaking out against sexual assault. Nevertheless, the lack of corroboration, witnesses, and the inconsistency of her story raise more questions than answers. To any rational person, the standard of ‘proven without any reasonable doubt’ was not met.
Sexual assault is one of the most unreported crimes in the United States, and as a nation, we have to do better to protect everyone from this horrendous crime as well as prosecuting and convicting the abusers.
Many would argue that the idea of being innocent until proven guilty, particularly with the burden of proof, complicates successful conviction, even more so since it is often one person’s word against the other. This difficulty cannot be an excuse to trample the rights and due process of the accused.
Many left-wingers and feminists have long been silently campaigning to change the laws of evidence and shift the burden of proof to the accused when it comes to sexual crimes. The #MeToo Movement frenzy has shifted these silent voices to the mainstream, shown during the confirmation process of Kavanaugh.
Ford’s case clearly reveals that many lobby for the presumption that the victim must be believed. It is horrifying to see the willingness to set aside such a basic principle and to use the case of Justice Kavanaugh to justify making convictions easier to combat sexual crimes.
Nobody is advocating against prosecution and investigation of sexual crimes. Indeed, police and justice departments across the U.S. need to do a better job investigating these crimes. Praise must be given to women and men who have been courageous in telling their stories and thus convicting criminals, but not at the expense of our ordered liberty.
In the end, the confirmation of Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice is an important victory for the presumption of innocence, a bedrock of the freedom we enjoy.
We must reject the calls to change the standard. Senator Susan Collins of Maine rightly warned that “in evaluating any given claim of misconduct, we will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be.”
Some may not care for this principle, but that may change if they become the target.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.