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David Lat

Penn Law School students gathered at a Penn Federalist Society event to discuss differing views of Brett Kavanaugh’s pending Supreme Court nomination with a pair of legal experts. Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault, and new allegations continue to delay his confirmation vote.

At Wednesday’s event, former prosecutor David Lat and Penn Law professor Kermit Roosevelt commented on both the future of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and its long-term implications. Kavanaugh became a member of the Federalist Society when he was at Yale Law School.

The event centered primarily on the theme that what is said or done in teenage and college years will have an increased impact on the professional careers of many of those in law. Lat said that the outcome of the Kavanaugh hearings will have a tremendous effect on the amount of scrutiny future judicial nominees will have to go through. 

“Some of you may have already done things or said things... that have probably closed the door for you forever to be a federal judge,” Lat said to the audience.

Roosevelt agreed, concurring that the nominations process will absolutely see more vetting.

Lat, founder of legal news site Above The Law, briefly chronicled Kavanaugh’s nomination, explaining how the allegations of sexual assault against the nominee have created an uproar among the public. Multiple women, including one represented by high-profile lawyer and 1996 College graduate Michael Avenatti, have come forward in recent days. 

The Penn Federalist Society is Penn’s chapter of the national Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization known to cultivate young conservative lawyers in the hope of expediting them to high posts in law and politics.

The group has been instrumental in getting conservatives, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, nominated to federal judgeships. It has become well known that President Donald Trump selected Kavanaugh off a list provided to him by the Federalist Society.

While Lat and Roosevelt were able to reach many points of agreement, they did disagree on some issues. Lat claimed that future nominations will be more partisan and more competitive. Roosevelt disagreed, arguing that current nominations are already polarized, citing the classic example of Merrick Garland, who was nominated by Obama to the Supreme Court but never granted a confirmation hearing.

While Lat said that future judges will be more boring, in that they will likely have to pass a harsher screening process for controversies during high school or college, Roosevelt said that while the vetting process will be stricter, he also noted that Kavanaugh’s alleged actions surpassed usual “youthful indiscretion.” 

Lat said that the situation is very unpredictable. 

“The situation is changing so rapidly I keep checking my phone for the latest updates,” Lat said.  He said that moderate Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, as well red state Democrats up for reelection, will likely be the deciding votes.  

The president of the Society, third-year law student Louis Capozzi, said the group wanted to host speakers with experience in law. "David Lat and Professor Roosevelt [both] have a lot of knowledge on judicial nominations, constitutional law, and the federal courts," Capozzi added.

Many of the attendees, who were primarily Penn Law students, were pleased with the event’s focus. First year law student Ryan Dahrouge noted that he thought the event was very even-handed, and that he was “pleasantly surprised by... both of [the speakers’] perspectives”.   

The Penn Law Federalist Society is known for welcoming conservative and libertarian guest speakers, including current National Security Advisor John Bolton.