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UND law professor signs letter against Kavanaugh confirmation

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018. As Judge Kavanaugh’s dramatic confirmation process lurches forward, all eyes are on five moderate, and as yet undecided, senators who will either send him to the nation’s highest court or derail his nomination. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Copyright 2018)

GRAND FORKS -- A University of North Dakota law professor has signed a letter presented to the U.S. Senate Thursday saying Judge Brett Kavanaugh should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Tammy Pettinato Oltz is one of more than 1,000 law professors to sign the letter.

The letter was published by the New York Times Wednesday and said “at the Senate hearings on Sept. 27, Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.”

“I agree with everything that is said in the letter. I don’t think that Kavanaugh has shown the appropriate judicial temperament,” Pettinato Oltz said Thursday. “In the hearing he had last Thursday, he was very aggressive and partisan. I’m concerned with his ability to be impartial with things that come before him on the court.”

Pettinato Oltz said she interpreted Kavanaugh’s “what goes around, comes around” comment during the hearing as a “promise of revenge” if he is confirmed.

“I just don’t think that is appropriate for any judicial nominee,” she said.

Pettinato Oltz said she decided to sign the letter because she wanted to ensure that there was some representation from North Dakota. She was the only North Dakota professor to sign on to the letter as of Thursday morning. Nine professors from the University of Minnesota and one from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul are also listed on the letter.

While she isn’t teaching a full class this fall, Pettinato Oltz said she would be cautious about bringing up the Kavanaugh hearing during class because they are representing students from a variety of different political parties and backgrounds. She noted that it’s important to avoid any type of bias, intentional or unintentional.

“It could come up very briefly in an analogy with how you should respond when you’re in court, but in general I think there needs to be kind of a sharp line between outside political advocacy and what a professor does in the classroom,” she said.

The letter closes by acknowledging that the professors do have “differing views about the other qualifications of Judge Kavanaugh,” but they are “united, as professors of law and scholars of judicial institutions, in believing that he did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land.”

To read the full letter click here.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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