Justice Kavanaugh vs Prof. Ford: The Challenge of Impartiality

In this Sept. 4, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

By Michael Brown Published on September 19, 2018

Justice must be impartial. It must be fair. It must not have preconceived notions. It must not show favoritism. It must be guided by evidence rather than preferences, by facts rather than sentiments.

But in the real world, justice is hard to come by.

Is it possible, then, to remain impartial when it comes to the accusations of Prof. Christine Blasey Ford and the denials of Justice Brett Kavanaugh?

I asked my Twitter followers if they believed Kavanaugh, Ford, or were undecided. The results were 74 percent for Kavanaugh, 6 percent for Ford, and 20 percent undecided. On Facebook, where I could only give two options, the results were even more one-sided: 97 percent for Kavanaugh and 3 percent for Ford.

I have no doubt, though, that the results would have been radically different if my social media audience was primarily liberal rather than conservative.

What if we asked the hard questions and thought through the difficult answers?

And that brings us back to the challenge of impartiality.

We tend to surround ourselves with supporting positions rather than dissenting positions, which means that our views are rarely challenged. It also means that we tend to become more partial, more opinionated and, potentially, more biased.

What if we determined to hear both sides of the story? What if we asked the hard questions and thought through the difficult answers?

Ford’s Story

When it comes to not believing Prof. Ford, there are many reasons for suspicion, the most obvious being: 1) the timing of her accusation surfacing; 2) her own liberal, anti-Trump background; and 3) the tried and true Democratic strategies.

Stream columnist Al Perrotta also noted some serious questions in Ford’s account of the alleged sexual assault:

  • She doesn’t know the date, the week and the month. She isn’t even sure about the year.
  • She doesn’t remember how the party came about.
  • She doesn’t remember where the party was.
  • She doesn’t know who owned the house.
  • She doesn’t know who invited her.
  • She doesn’t know how she got there.
  • She doesn’t know how she got home.

But, Perrotta adds,

She does remember drinking.

It was only decades later, during psychotherapy, that the story emerged. According to Ford, this is when she realized the impact the alleged incident had on her life and relationships.

Along with this (and more) is the fact that Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh who was allegedly present (and also drunk, with Kavanaugh) when Ford was assaulted, denies that any such thing ever happened.

Mark Judge’s Story

But is Judge the most reliable witness?

An article by Sophie Tatum on CNN notes that, “Judge wrote the book Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, where he details his experiences of extensive drinking while attending Georgetown Preparatory School. [This is where he and Kavanaugh were students.]

Judge writes that he is “shocked” about what he got away with in high school — recalling beach parties that hundreds of people would attend.

At another point he describes his high school as “positively swimming in alcohol.”

Judge has also had harsh words for President and Mrs. Obama, not to mention quite a few comments that could be taken as sexually degrading to women.

The CNN article also notes that,

Attorney Seth Berenzweig, a Virginia-based lawyer who otherwise has no connection to Kavanaugh or the allegations, was given a copy of the high school’s 1983 yearbook by an individual who requested anonymity. The yearbook features captions such as “Do these guys beat their wives?” and “Prep parties raise question of legality.”

Challenging Presuppositions

My point in quoting these disparate views is not to question the integrity of Ford, Judge or Kavanaugh. It is simply to illustrate the wisdom of a verse in Proverbs that says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17).

My own leanings are very much along the lines of those expressed by my Stream colleague Al Perrotta. And I have also addressed the question of how we handle accusations (and/or evidence) of past transgressions.

Yet I am doing my best to maintain an attitude of neither trusting nor dismissing Ford or Kavanaugh based on the conflicting reports, seeking to remain impartial until the truth comes to light.

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It appears that one of them is lying — either lie would be monstrous and ugly — or one of them does not remember what actually took place. Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea of which report is accurate in the days to come.

For our part, though, when we hear conflicting reports, we do well to challenge our presuppositions, to hear both sides of the story, and to weigh the evidence carefully.

The truth will stand with us or without us.

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