OPINION: Due process matters, even in Supreme Court confirmations

The nomination of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was a political disaster, to put it simply. Senate Democrats showed the country that they were willing to take down Kavanaugh by whatever means necessary.

To say nothing of whether or not Kavanaugh committed sexual assault against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, it sets a dangerous precedent to “believe all women,” as many on the left have been pushing since the allegations against Kavanaugh surfaced.

By that, I don’t mean that Dr. Ford is not deserving of sympathy, and I am also not saying that I think Dr. Ford is lying about what happened to her. We can have sympathy for someone who is, or claims to be, a victim of sexual assault.

The question that arises, though, is why we should unequivocally believe every woman who comes forth with an allegation of sexual assault. To hold that view is to believe that there is something inherently more trustworthy about a woman’s account than that which can be verified by corroborative evidence.

It is perfectly reasonable to both feel sympathetic for Dr. Ford, and believe that she must provide corroborative evidence if the man she accused of sexual assault is to be barred from sitting on the Supreme Court.

Due process must be upheld, especially when confirming nominees to the Supreme Court. Say, for the sake of argument, that Dr. Ford was being untruthful about what she claims Brett Kavanaugh did to her (again, I am not saying that she is), and Kavanaugh was denied a seat on the Court on suspicion of having committed sexual assault. That would be antithetical to the idea of due process, which requirements that an individual’s legal rights must be upheld by the state. While applying the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is problematic in application to this instance, as Kavanaugh was not being tried for sexual assault, the phrase’s underlying message must be kept in mind.

Kavanaugh, who has years of experience on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, nominated by the President of the United States, or any other dutiful judge also nominated, cannot be barred from serving on the Supreme Court on the basis of an uncorroborated allegation. A definitive time and/or place were details that would have been useful in proving Dr. Ford’s claims, but she was wary to make such definitive statements.

It is not in anyone’s best interests to create a culture in which any person in a position of authority can be brought down by any unsupported allegation. It is bad for the person in authority, for obvious reasons. It is insulting to those who are actually victims of sexual assault and can corroborate their claims, as the culture would weigh their situation the exact same to those who can’t prove that they were sexually assaulted. As Blackstone’s formulation goes: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

Allegations of sexual assault are to be taken seriously. If justice is to be brought to the actual perpetrators of sexual violence, due process for the accused, Brett Kavanaugh included, must be upheld, and we must not ruin anyone’s life because we have chosen to believe anyone who comes forward with an allegation, regardless of the validity of their claims.