Even if it wouldn’t support a criminal conviction or civil liability, a merely credible allegation is enough to disqualify him... It’s natural to place this sort of accusation within a criminal-justice framework: the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt; the presumption of innocence; the right to confront and respond to an accuser. If Judge Kavanaugh stood criminally accused of attempted rape, all of that would apply with full force. But those concepts are a poor fit for Supreme Court confirmation hearings, where there’s no presumption of confirmation, and there’s certainly no burden that facts be established beyond a reasonable doubt... The Senate’s approach to its constitutional “advice and consent” obligation has always depended on context. A number of factors matter: the timing of the vacancy; the justice being replaced; the nominee’s likely impact on the ideological makeup of the court; even the popularity of the president (very popular presidents have always had more leeway when it comes to picking justices). Then, of course, there’s the nominee... Nominations have failed — that is, been withdrawn or voted down — for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because a majority of the Senate rejects a nominee’s vision of the Constitution and the role of the court. That was the case with Judge Robert Bork, a Reagan nominee whose skepticism about the Constitution’s protection of privacy and liberty convinced a majority of senators that he was simply too conservative and too far out of the mainstream to be confirmed.
Other nominations have been unsuccessful because of private conduct. Another Reagan nominee, Judge Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew from consideration after the press uncovered reports of marijuana use that the F.B.I. had failed to unearth.
And the Senate blocked President Lyndon Johnson’s attempt to elevate Abe Fortas to chief justice after evidence emerged that as a sitting member of the court, Justice Fortas had also been serving as a de facto adviser to President Johnson, and after questions were raised about the propriety of outside payments he had received while on the court.
.. This context-dependent approach arguably leads to the conclusion that the existence of credible allegations against Judge Kavanaugh should be disqualifying, especially if further corroborating evidence emerges. That’s true even if the evidence wouldn’t support a criminal conviction or even civil liability... In this way, the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh are directly connected to his ability to perform the job.. In an era of meager faith in public institutions (Congress’s approval ratings hover around 17 percent), the relative trust in the court is a striking and important fact. But even more than a heartening fact, it’s critical to the court’s functioning: The public’s perception of the court as legitimate is in many ways the source of its power.
Putting Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court in light of credible allegations against him could raise troublesome questions about the court’s legitimacy. And that’s a genuine problem, both for the court’s ability to function and more broadly for the rule of law.