Supreme Court Nominee May Spell Trouble for Disability Rights

On Monday, July 9th, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (1). Because Justice Kennedy was often a swing vote in cases involving civil rights, many have noted that his replacement could greatly impact future rulings related to minority groups. Since Kavanaugh’s nomination, several major disability organizations have expressed concern that he may weaken laws to protect those with disabilities from discrimination in areas such as healthcare, education, employment, and housing. Supreme Court building

Federal laws that protect people with disabilities such as the Affordable Care Act (which guarantees insurance coverage to those with preexisting medical conditions), Fair Housing Act, and even the Americans with Disabilities Act have already been challenged in court.

Kavanaugh’s career thus far suggests that his presence on the Supreme Court could be very detrimental to people with disabilities. While a judge on the D.C. Circuit, he chose to deny remedial education to a student with disabilities, who had been promised such services.

Moreover, Arlene Mayerson, directing attorney for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, told Disability Scoop that Kavanaugh often supports the elimination of agency regulations, which clarify what statutes require. Mayerson noted that “We want more enforcement of our laws by the federal government [to protect those with disabilities], not less” (2).  

Curt Decker, the executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, echoed this sentiment in his own statement:

“The National Disability Rights Network shares the concerns of the civil rights community about the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Disability is a condition that can affect all Americans… Any weakening of the laws that protect Americans from discrimination and ensure equal opportunity would negatively affect individuals with disabilities as well” (3).

Open Letter from Yale Law Students, Alumni, and Educators

Yale Law School, of which Kavanaugh is an alum, issued a press release highlighting his nomination. Several professors were quoted, praising Kavanaugh for being “a wonderful mentor and teacher,” “one of the most learned judges in America,” and “a fair-minded jurist” (4).

In response, hundreds of Yale students, alumni, and educators signed an open letter criticizing the University for its public support of Kavanaugh. The letter states that “Kavanaugh’s opinions give us grave concern that he will consistently prioritize the beliefs of third-parties over the rights of the oppressed…”

They further state that, “Judge Kavanaugh’s resume is certainly marked by prestige, groomed for exactly this nomination. But degrees and clerkships should not be the only, or even the primary, credential for a Supreme Court appointment. A commitment to law and justice is” (5).

Other Recent Blog Posts


  1. The New York TimesBrett Kavanaugh Is Trump’s Pick for Supreme Court
  2. Disability ScoopDisability Groups Leery Of Trump Supreme Court Nominee
  3. The Leadership ConferenceCivil Rights Leaders Discuss Supreme Court Nomination
  4. The Washington PostYale students and alumni blast law school for praising Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s choice for Supreme Court


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