I refer only to the allegations based on the Hon. Judge Kavanaugh's 1983 yearbook from Georgetown Preparatory School (like 'Renate Alumnus', and alcoholic consumption slang), and not those that were only mooted in 2018 (like from his 3 female accusers, as of Oct. 3 2018).

I know that SCOTUS is more powerful than the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but this is a federal appellate court that is 'arguably the most important inferior appellate court'.

  1. Why weren't these unfavourable allegations based on his yearbook mooted then in 2006, when he was nominated to the DC Circuit?

  2. Checking yearbooks can't be that burdensome or mind-boggling. Did nobody bother to examine his yearbook?

  • Perhaps you could describe dates of the 6 previous background checks. I'm assuming that the last (#6) was done just prior to his nomination on 9 July 2018, and the previous one (his nomination to the DC court) occurring in 2003. I'm making the assumption that the president would have "vetted - obtained a BC" prior to these nominations. So your question could well be 'why didn't issues based on his yearbook' come up in 2003 and/or 2018 background checks'
    – BobE
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 2:33
  • This is speculation, so I'm putting it here rather than in an answer. The FBI must have a checklist of things to look at and people to talk to during a routine background check. Yearbooks probably aren't on that list. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 7:56
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    None of the allegations that reference his yearbook are allegations, in and of themselves. They are only noteworthy as they relate to Ford's accusations and characterizations of how Kavanaugh was, vs his claims about how he behaved. At no point in this current process have his yearbook notations been a primary focus of fitness/unfittness. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 16:50
  • The investigations he took during the White House require to give a lot of witnesses to your life going back either the past 10 years OR to your 18th Birthday, which ever is sooner. Even then, the investigator doesn't look at your high school year book.
    – hszmv
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 21:04

4 Answers 4


4 points here:

  • As you state, SCOTUS is the most important court. Rulings made by Kavanaugh at his current position may set precedents in case law, but they (no matter how important is his current position) could be reverted by SCOTUS. Kavanaugh rulings as SCOTUS justice could not reverted by a superior court. So his influence as a SCOTUS member would be way greater.

    Also, by its very nature, the cases before SCOTUS are more political in nature, as they involve the final decision in what the Constitution of the USA means.

    Being more important brings more scrutiny. In fact it is often said that one of the most important decisions of any POTUS is their pick for SCOTUS, as that decision will usually outlast the POTUS term and cannot be reverted.

  • There was not much to check. Kavanaugh's activities during his student years have come into question in relation to the claims that Kavanaugh's did sexually assault some women. Without those women's testimony, there was no special interest in checking his university years intensively, and even if you check in depth all that is to be found is some heavy drinking, some minor incidents and some outrageous declarations.

  • Times are changing. As it has been reported by the press, Kavanaugh is not the first SCOTUS nominee to face charges of sexual abuse. But after the "Me too" movement has given an idea of how widespread sexual abuse is, it is not so easy to just dismiss those.

  • Kavanaugh himself made the issue important. He could have just said "Yes, I did party a lot, but I did never abuse any woman. And now I have realized that I should be more moderated with alcohol and I am a more centered person."

    But in a TV interview he went out of his way, when denying the sexual assault accusation, to claim that he had been a model student who was never drunk and never went to party. Once witnesses and records have cast very serious doubts about this claim, his veracity when claiming that he never did abuse any woman can be called into question.

  • 1
    Kavanaugh had to eliminate the possibility that he had assaulted Ford but didn't remember doing so. If he had admitted to not remembering things due to alcohol the next question would have been "Could you have attempted rape but failed to remember it?" Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 8:00
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    @PaulJohnson His motives for lying are not relevant(no that it is that difficult, denying the accusation is a good motive either if you are innocent or guilty). But once he is proven to have lied about the drinking issue his credibility goes down. There are lots of grades between "abstemious" and "I do not know if I did ever killed/raped someone", and Kavanaugh decided to go all in with "abstemious, never been in a party".
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 8:06
  • @SJuan76 I agree that his lies decrease his credibility no matter what, but in this case I think his motives are relevant; they were clearly a self-serving attempt to dismiss/discredit the more serious accusations, not just an attempt to reduce his embarrassment or something.
    – BradC
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 21:04
  • @SJuan76 - Building on the "More scrutiny" point, I'd add that most people never hear about appellate court appointments, but SCOTUS appointments are major news. So it's likely that no one who could have made allegations even knew about the 2006 appointment.
    – Bobson
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 21:30
  • 4
    "to claim that he ... was never drunk and never went to party" Citation needed. He never claimed that he was never drunk or that he never went to parties. He claimed that he never went to this party with Christine Blasey and never woke up unable to remember what he had done the previous night. The people refuting him are refuting straw man claims while leaving the actual claim untouched. No one has proven that he every experience memory loss after a drunken blackout.
    – Brythan
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 0:08

Two main reasons:

  1. The stakes are far higher now. We're talking about a Supreme court seat that can tilt the ideological majority.

  2. The key point really: these are relatively trivial compared to the main issues; they are only brought up as supplementary to the serious accusations. As such there was not much point searching yearbooks for the possibility of finding something on this level

  • 5
    I think you need to add a third reason: the person who nominated him.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 17:19
  • This sounds plausible, but do you have any evidence that this is the true, factual reason that the yearboom didn't come up in past nominations? Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 14:52

How do we know that his yearbooks were NOT checked?

I think I am learning a lot more about the FBI background check process than what I previously (intuitively) thought I knew.

For example, the client agency tells the FBI the parameters who and what to look at. Also, that the contents of a FBI background check are confidential.

If both these things are true, we cannot know if something was investigated or not without breaching confidentiality.

(What is not clear at the moment is if the directive to the FBI from Don McGahan is confidential)

I realize that is a less than satisfying answer.


Thus did nobody bother to examine his yearbook?

Correct. Which makes sense. If someone is an idiot now, it is unlikely that the person stopped making idiot statements. So the investigators tend to check statements and actions from the last ten years or so (example source). The normal assumption is that if someone was an idiot in high school, that the person grew up prior to being nominated for a judgeship. So why check high school statements?

I'm unsure how universal the United States treatment of yearbooks is. In the US, it is typical for people to write in each other's yearbooks. So to really investigate, they couldn't read just one yearbook. They would want to read the yearbooks of all the classmates, especially the friends. Because that's where they'd find things written by or about Brett Kavanaugh or whomever they were investigating.

They still didn't check the yearbook during the Supreme Court investigation. They only checked it when the last minute allegations arose. At that point, he had already passed the normal investigative process. The current investigation is in addition to that.

In this case, the accusations come from the high school and college years, so people are looking more closely. And because Democrats oppose the nominee, they are looking for any excuse to make him look bad. Politicians have incentives to act this way.

This is why it is preferable to bring up allegations like this early in the process. Then the normal investigation would have uncovered this stuff and generally ignored it unless it had more serious implications. So instead of pointing out that an entitled rich kid was doing entitled rich kid things in high school, it could concentrate on more recent information or more legally relevant information.

Note that as a general rule, the information in Kavanaugh's yearbook doesn't say anything indicating that he attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford on its face. There are a couple things that can be interpreted as indicating that he wanted to participate in a threesome. The claims here are that he drank too much in high school (and later in college). A typical FBI investigation would focus more on whether he drinks too much now, possibly by looking at behavior in the last few years.

There is some risk that Republicans will start treating Democratic nominees the way that Kavanaugh has been treated. They may start looking in older material for things that are not illegal but simply unseemly. That seems unlikely to make nominees better (unless your definition of better is someone with few close friends in high school), but it could allow them to score political points.

And if Republicans treat future Democrats this way, Democrats will certainly respond in kind.

  • 1
    Sounds plausible, but there are an almost infinite number of plausible explanations. Why is this one true? Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 4:21
  • 8
    -1 because this seems to be mostly speculation and political spin. There are credible sexual assault accusations against this nominee. If true, this is relevant information; you can't just dismiss it as boys will be boys. Given that one of the accusers says that the accused was stumbling drunk during the attack, it is relevant if he drank to that point, or if he (often) had memory lapses from alcohol. Instead of honestly answering the questions, he chose to evade and misrepresent his drinking and his treatment of women (the yearbook and statements by his friends paint a different picture)
    – tim
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 7:00
  • 9
    The point is, Democrats didn't just start "start looking in older material for things that are not illegal" for no reason. They did it because there are credible sexual assault allegations.
    – tim
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 7:00
  • 5
    "There is some risk that Republicans will start treating Democratic nominees the way that Kavanaugh has been treated." I don't think this is necessarily a "risk," it would in fact be a step up in treatment. Kavanaugh actually got a hearing.
    – user5155
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 13:56
  • @JeffLambert - Good point. It seems to be less of an issue when the target is clearing the bar/standard by a wide margin vs how low you can aim and still get it through. With Kavanaugh, they are trying to get the most political and partisan person they possibly can into that seat. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 17:54

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