Study guide: Supreme Court hearings and Brett Kavanaugh – Day 4

Monday, September 10, 2018


Directions:  Read the summary first, then watch the video below and answer the discussion questions. To help students follow along, turn on the closed captions function marked “CC” or use the transcript. If time permits, watch the news videos recapping Days 1-3 of the hearings and answer the questions.

If time permits, check out a few minutes from Day 4 of the hearings: WATCH LIVE: Day 4 of Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings and the full coverage of the Kavanaugh nomination.


Friday is Day 4 of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. During such hearings, lawmakers examine and ask questions about the professional background of the candidate, including prior court rulings they have made and different positions they have held throughout their career. Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, the retiring judge. Kavanaugh was a top official in the Ken Starr investigation of President Clinton, served in the George W. Bush administration and held a seat on the powerful D.C. circuit court of appeals. Having a long political career in Washington D.C. comes with both strengths and challenges for Kavanaugh. Support for the candidate has fallen along party lines: Republicans support him and most Democrats oppose his nomination.


Discuss questions as a class or with a partner or craft a written response.

1. Essential question: Why do Supreme Court hearings often become heated along party lines?

2. What do you see as strengths and weaknesses in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh?

3. How much should a Supreme Court nominee’s prior court decisions and work experience affect their confirmation?

4. Should Supreme Court nominations be used as a political tool during presidential campaigns? Explain your response.

Dig deeper:

Watch highlights from Day 3 of the hearings, Release of emails and documents rock Day 3 of Kavanaugh hearing and read along with the transcriptAsk your students:

  • What did the emails and documents reveal about Kavanaugh’s stances on the issues?

  • Do you agree with the actions Democratic Sen. Cory Booker took on Thursday? Why or why not?

To watch highlights from Day 2 of the hearings, watch the video, What Kavanaugh said about abortion, guns and presidential pardons, and read along with the transcript. Ask your students:

  • Should seats for members of the public at the Supreme Court hearings be reduced to half their original number? Explain.

  • Should members of the public have been cleared from the room on Wednesday for 45 minutes? Explain.

  • Why were these decisions made?

Use the transcript as a guide as you watch the video, In hearing showdown, Democrats push for Kavanaugh documents, which highlights Day 1 of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings. Then answer the questions below.

a. Why did members of the public choose to protest in the manner they did on Tuesday? Do you agree with their actions? Why or why not?

b. During the hearings, why did Democratic lawmakers interrupt Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the judiciary committees? Do you think this method was effective? Explain. What was the reaction of Republican legislators to the interruptions?

c. Should Supreme Court justices serve for life? Why or why not?

Extension activities

Visit PBS NewsHour Extra for more education resources designed to help teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories@NewsHourExtra