In his first day on the bench as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh was not the most frequent questioner but showed he was fully prepared for the vexing ambiguities of a federal sentencing law despite little time to get up to speed, reports the National Law Journal. With his wife, two daughters and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy watching, Kavanaugh appeared relaxed and engaged before and during two hours of oral arguments. Mike Davis, chief counsel to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who led the confirmation push, attended. Sitting at the far right corner of the bench, Kavanaugh chatted and laughed with his seatmate, Obama appointee Elena Kagan, before arguments began on what Justice Samuel Alito later would call a statute that “a majority of the court really hates,” the Armed Career Criminal Act.
The night before, speaking at the White House, Kavanaugh said he would join the bench with “no bitterness” about confirmation proceedings at which his credibility and temperament were questioned. Despite the intense emotions surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, at which he was accused of sexual misconduct in his high school and college years—he denied the claims—there were no attempts to protest inside the courtroom. The new justice’s debut was in marked contrast to Justice Neil Gorsuch’s first argument day. Gorsuch, who like Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump and attended the same suburban Maryland high school, jumped right into questioning in his first case. Kavanaugh asked eight questions in two hours in a businesslike, straight-forward manner, pressing the advocates at times for more complete answers to his questions. Alito’s frustration with the Armed Career Criminal Act boiled over in one argument when he said, “we have made a royal mess” of the law.