Kavanaugh’s Debut Opinion Vindicates Trump’s High Court Pick

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s first Supreme Court opinion is a model of stylistic clarity and judicial restraint. Writing for a unanimous Court, his January 8,  2019 opinion in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc., No. 17-1272, holds that where parties have agreed in a contract that an arbitrator—rather than a court—should decide whether a particular dispute is subject to the contract’s arbitration provision, there is no exception under the Federal Arbitration Act even if the argument in favor of arbitration is “wholly groundless.”

In just six pages, Justice Kavanaugh concisely explains, in plain English, the question presented, the material facts, the statutory background, the relevant Supreme Court precedents, and the reasons why none of the Respondent’s arguments in favor of a “wholly groundless” exception are persuasive. In so doing, Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion repeatedly demonstrates judicial restraint. For example, the opinion states:

> “The Act does not contain a ‘wholly groundless’ exception, and we are not at liberty to rewrite the statute passed by Congress and signed by the President.”

> “Under the Act, arbitration is a matter of contract, and courts must enforce arbitration contracts according to their terms.”

>“We must interpret the Act as written, and the Act in turn requires that we interpret the contract as written. When the parties’ contract delegates the arbitrability question to an arbitrator, a court may not override the contract.”

>“Congress designed the Act in a specific way, and it is not our proper role to redesign the statute.”

>“[W]e may not rewrite the statute simply to accommodate [a] policy concern.”

>“The short answer is that the Act contains no ‘wholly groundless’ exception, and we may not engraft our own exceptions onto the statutory text.”

If his first Supreme Court opinion is any indication, Justice Kavanaugh will prove to be a brilliant choice for service on the high court.

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