Scores of complaints accusing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of improperly conducting himself during his contentious Senate confirmation process have been thrown out by a panel of eight federal judges.
The judges said the complaints of misconduct, including accusations that Kavanaugh made false, unduly partisan and disrespectful statements to senators, must be dismissed because he has been confirmed to the Supreme Court and the federal law governing judicial conduct applies only to lower court judges.
Kavanaugh was a federal appeals court judge when President Donald Trump appointed him in July. He was confirmed in October.
In all, 83 complaints were filed against Kavanaugh by "lawyers, doctors, professors and concerned citizens, among others," according to Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Some complaints also related to Senate testimony Kavanaugh gave in 2004 and 2006 when he was a nominee to become a federal appeals court judge.
"Congress has not extended the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act to Supreme Court justices," Tymkovich wrote for the panel of judges, part of the Judicial Council of the 10th Circuit.
As they piled up at the Washington appeals court, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts in October transferred the complaints to be handled by that council.
During hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh denied allegations that he sexually assaulted a California professor when the two were teenagers in Maryland in the 1980s. He leveled a partisan attack against Democratic senators, calling himself the victim of "a calculated and orchestrated political hit" fueled by anger on the left at Trump's 2016 election win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A bitterly divided Senate voted 50-48 to confirm Kavanaugh.
Gabe Roth of Fix the Court, an advocacy group that pushes for Supreme Court transparency, said the judicial misconduct law badly needs to be rewritten.
"Today's decision," Roth added, "underscores the need for the Supreme Court to adopt its own code of conduct or for Congress to write one if the justices cannot be bothered."