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Ford and Kavanaugh hearing: a Supreme Court injustice?

Highly publicised court case raises some serious concerns around justice and compassion

In the last 24 hours university professor Dr Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh have both appeared before a US Senate Committee. Dr Ford alleges that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in 1982. Judge Kavanaugh rejects the allegations and claims no such encounter ever occurred. Both gave emotional testimonies to the Senate, which were difficult and uncomfortable to watch. 

Judge Kavanaugh is President Trump’s nominee for the vacant spot on the bench of the US Supreme Court. From this side of the pond it is difficult to properly appreciate the stakes involved around a Supreme Court appointment. The tenure is for life, and this court decides at the highest level on the most contentious issues in US law and politics, including abortion and gun control. 

Here in the UK judges are appointed to make legal decisions independently from political interference. While judges everywhere are undoubtedly affected by the same cultural and political currents which affect us all, the US appointments process is polarising and nakedly partisan. 

Watching some of the testimony and questioning on live video stream felt like the personification of the social and political angst of the past two years was being played out between these two people. A televised political hearing around such sensitive events, which involves serious criminal allegations against a serving judge, seems completely bizarre to a UK audience. As someone trained in the legal profession and deeply concerned about compassionate support for victims, truth and justice, I fail to see how this in any way serves well the alleged victim, alleged perpetrator or the American public.

Social media responded with all the nuance and sensitivity you would expect. Through blunt hastags like #BelieveWomen or #BackBrett, people could publicly show support for their chosen side. The #MeToo movement has exposed many systemic issues that need to be addressed in terms of perpetrators and victims across the liberal/​conservative divide. However, this case involving a Supreme Court nomination has appealed to tribal party allegiances. 

Pitching women against men generally, or party against party, threatens the integrity of both of the people at the heart of this case and does nothing to serve justice. Deeply personal and highly sensitive statements, words which should have received weighty consideration, were instead being liked, shared or ridiculed through digital soundbites.

I want victims of sexual assault to know that their claims will be taken seriously and empathetically, investigated with rigor and expertise, so that they feel able to come forward and tell their stories. I want to see survivors recompensed and restored as far as possible in this fallen age. I want to see those who are accused given a fair trial, those who are rightfully convicted given meaningful sentences, and those rightfully acquitted walk free. 

I don’t know what happened in the alleged incident in 1982. None of us may ever know. I have not said anything about the veracity of the claims by either party. In my view, the best way to have achieved justice in this matter was for it to be robustly investigated by the relevant criminal agency and brought to trial if appropriate. However, I find it improbable that any criminal trial could now fairly be brought to conclusion given the way that this has been handled politically and publicly. 

And here is a great and sad irony: the appointments process for one of the most powerful legal positions in one of the most powerful nations on earth could instead itself result in a miscarriage of justice for either or both the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator. 

In moments like this we remember that the Lord has revealed Himself throughout scripture to be the judge of all the earth. Psalm 7:11 says: God is a righteous judge, a God who displays His wrath every day.” Psalm 11:7 says: For the LORD is righteous; He loves justice. The upright will see His face.” 

As followers of Jesus we have hope that one day every act of injustice will be brought before God Almighty. This is both a terrible and a wonderful thing. For in the very moment that we invite judgment upon others we invite it upon ourselves – we who have failed to live in God’s holy ways. And yet, we are not guilty because the Judge Himself came down to take our place – to bear our guilt.

Here again, is a great but joyous irony. In the moment when ultimate justice is to be delivered by the ultimate Judge, we experience ultimate grace. In the light of this joyful irony, how does holy justice change the way we speak to those we disagree with? How does grace shine through in our words and actions in the public arena? How do we seek justice when the world around us is shouting for victory?

This weekend I suggest we prayerfully consider how we live transformational lives between the fallen justice of this age and the perfect justice and grace of the age to come through Christ.



Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

About the author

David is our lead on public policy. He is a former solicitor and represents the Evangelical Alliance on a range of government, civic and charitable forums. He serves in the space where faith, law, politics and culture intersect.

See more from David Smyth

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