Kavanaugh Joins High Court, Hears Sentencing Cases

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A Supreme Court with a new conservative majority took the bench on Tuesday as Brett Kavanaugh, narrowly confirmed after a bitter Senate battle, heard his first arguments, the Associated Press reports. It was a moment conservatives have dreamed of for decades, with five solidly conservative justices. Kavanaugh’s predecessor, Anthony Kennedy, was a more moderate conservative and sometimes sided with the four liberal justices. Kavanaugh is expected to be a more decidedly conservative vote, tilting the court right and leaving Chief Justice John Roberts  closest to the ideological middle. Kavanaugh’s first two cases involve mandatory sentencing enhancement provisions of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), reports SCOTUSblog. In Stokeling v. United States, the court considers whether a state-law robbery offense meets the federal law’s definition of a violent felony. The second argument in consolidated cases, United States v. Stitt and United States v. Sims, involve the generic definition of burglary for the purposes of an ACCA enhancement.

A case the court hears Wednesday involves the detention of immigrants, an issue on which Kavanaugh’s vote could be key. Republicans had hoped to confirm Kavanaugh in time for him to join the court lat week at the start of the new term. Instead, the former D.C. Circuit judge missed the first week of arguments as the Senate considered an allegation that he had sexually assaulted a woman in high school. Kavanaugh hired four clerks, all women, the first time that has happened. As the newest justice, Kavanaugh takes notes for the court when they meet for private conferences. He’ll also be the one to answer the door if someone knocks to deliver something such as coffee or forgotten glasses, and he sits on the committee that oversees the court’s cafeteria, which is open to the public.

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