Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court swearing in
Retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy administers the Judicial Oath to Brett Kavanaugh as his wife, Ashley, and their daughters Margaret and Liza look on, in the Supreme Court Building on Oct. 6 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)

Newly sworn-in Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh is facing two hot-button issues in his first case on the bench: Criminal sentencing and gun control.

Kavanaugh's first day on the court was yesterday, when he began hearing arguments in Stokeling v. United States. The case concerns mandatory minimum sentencing under a 1984 federal law, the Armed Career Criminal Act. The law requires a 15-year minimum sentence for firearm offenders who have three prior serious or violent felony convictions. The court will decide what constitutes a "serious or violent felony" under the act. It currently varies by state.

Kavanaugh is expected to give the Supreme Court a reliable 5-4 conservative majority. He was sworn in on Saturday by Chief Justice John Roberts and former associate justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he clerked 25 years ago. A White House ceremony was held Monday night, in which President Trump erroneously said that Kavanaugh had been "proven innocent" of sexual-assault allegations levied at him by Christine Blasey Ford.

The allegations — that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted Ford in high school — led to an emotional day of Senate testimony by Kavanaugh and Ford, two weeks of controversy, and a reopened FBI investigation that many Democrats found too limited to be legitimate. The spectacle, in which more accusers and corroborators came forward, almost derailed Kavanaugh's nomination. But he was ultimately confirmed by the Senate, 50-48.

 

Kavanaugh was seated on the far right side of the bench Tuesday, next to Justice Elena Kagan, who hired him to teach at Harvard Law School when she was dean. The school recently said that Kavanaugh will not be returning to teach there.

The second case Kavanaugh heard concerns an equally contentious issue: Immigration. Today, the justices heard arguments about which undocumented immigrants can be detained during deportation proceedings. The case involves an immigrant who has a prior criminal record but is no longer being held.

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