Judge Brett Kavanaughs nomination to replace retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court comes at a tense moment. It could drastically shift the courts tenuous ideological balance, and it comes not long after Senate Republicans disgracefully blocked President Barack Obama from making a court pick in his final year. More than ever, the court is in danger of becoming viewed as an instrument of politics rather than an independent, nonpartisan branch of government.
That is why senators must be even more exacting than usual when they evaluate Mr. Kavanaugh. They should insist on a justice who would rule with modesty and genuine independence of mind and a willingness to resist abuses of power by this and future presidents. I believe that an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic, Mr. Kavanaugh said following his introduction. He must show he means it.
Mr. Kavanaugh meets the basic qualifications for high court service. A Yale Law School graduate who clerked for Mr. Kennedy, he has served for 12 years on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The country certainly could have expected worse from President Trump. Yet Mr. Kavanaugh came from a list of potential nominees preapproved by conservative activist groups. Their goal is to tilt the court as far right as possible as quickly as possible.