Almost a year after Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 was appointed to the nation’s highest court, revelations about a previously unreported sexual misconduct allegation against the justice have revived controversies that once threatened the justice’s confirmation.
Last fall, Kavanaugh faced three allegations of sexual misconduct, one of which was levied by Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez ’87. On Saturday, the New York Times reported that before Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Max Stier ’87 — an acclaimed lawyer who lived near the justice during their first year in Lawrance Hall — notified the Federal Bureau of Investigations of a separate incident that mirrors Ramirez’s allegation. According to the Times report, Stier told the F.B.I that he witnessed drunk Kavanaugh with his pants down at a dorm party, where friends pushed Kavanaugh’s penis into the hand of a female student.
The Times’ account of Stier’s disclosure to the FBI renewed criticisms over Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Court last October. Over the weekend, several Democratic presidential hopefuls and lawmakers — including former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. — called for impeachment proceedings or inquiries into the new allegation against Kavanaugh. Meanwhile, many University alumni have expressed concerns about last fall’s FBI investigation that left out tens of alumni willing to testify about a culture of casual disrespect toward women among Kavanaugh’s circle of friends.
“We spent a week believing the FBI would listen to us if we called them enough times or knocked on their doors enough times,” Rebecca Steinitz ’86 told the News on Monday. “It was a charade of an investigation. People feel righteously indignant about that.”
Last fall, Ramirez’s legal team provided the FBI with a list of at least 25 people who could have helped corroborate her account, according to the Times report. None of those individuals were interviewed by the bureau, even though several of them repeatedly tried to contact the FBI.
Two such individuals, Kerry Berchem ’88 and Kathy Charlton ’87, told the News that they contacted the FBI and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with text messages suggesting that Kavanaugh tried to refute Ramirez’s allegations to former classmates before they became public. And last fall, Mark Krasberg ’87, who was Kavanaugh’s neighbor in Lawrance Hall during their freshman year, told the News that he submitted information which he claimed “back[ed] up part of Ramirez’s story” to the FBI. Krasberg, however, was never contacted by the bureau for a follow-up. Krasberg added that he was “happy to see [Stier] come forward to the FBI” but emphasized that there was no attempt to investigate Stier’s allegations.
The Times’ report does not name the woman involved in the incident reported by Stier. In an editor’s note published on Monday, the reporters added that the female student declined to be interviewed, and her friends told the Times she did not recall the incident. While the Times’ account was corroborated by two FBI officials, Stier declined to comment for the Times’ story.
Even prior to Saturday’s report, several alumni held suspicions about disrespectful acts toward women involving Kavanaugh and his circle of friends. Last fall, the News reported that Krasberg and Steven Kantrowitz ’87, another first-year neighbor of Kavanaugh, saw a group of Kavanaugh’s close friends — but not the judge himself — listening to an audio tape of a threesome.
“There was a lot of aggressive talk and certainly a lot of braggadocio,” Chad Ludington ’87 said of his and Kavanaugh’s circle of friends last fall. “[The social group] casually disrespected women and sometimes not so casually disrespected women.”
Although concerns about Kavanaugh’s moral character resurfaced after the Times report, some alumni said they doubt the new allegation will impact Kavanaugh’s position on the Court.
Charlton said she and other alumni had a clear goal last year in trying to contact the FBI and ensure a thorough investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh. Now, nearly a year after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Charlton said her classmates are unsure of how to proceed.
“What can happen now?” Steinitz said. “At this point, with this administration and this Senate, [nothing] is going to make a difference … Kavanaugh is here to stay, he’s a Supreme Court Justice.”
Last September, Steinitz organized an open letter signed by over 3,000 female alumni expressing support for Ramirez and Christine Blasey Ford, who testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about an alleged assault perpetrated by Kavanaugh when the two were in high school.
Prior to joining the Court, Kavanaugh worked on Kenneth Starr’s legal team investigating President Bill Clinton. Stier, who reported the newest allegations to the FBI, served on Clinton’s defense team during the investigation.
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Correction, Sept. 19: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Max Stier ’87 was Kavanaugh’s suitemate during their first year in Lawrance Hall. In fact, Stier lived near the justice but was not his suitemate.