AFN urges senators to vote against Kavanaugh confirmation to SCOTUS

Judge Brett Kavanaugh faces questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee before Congress votes to confirm his nomination by President Donald Trump to the United States Supreme Court. If confirmed, Kavanaugh will replace recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy., Photo Date: 9/4/2018 / Photo: NBC / YouTube / (MGN)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - As Alaska’s senior Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the focus of a nationwide campaign for her vote on Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the largest statewide Native organization in Alaska, has come out against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

In a statement dated Sept. 12, the organization says while it did not immediately weigh in on Trump’s selection of Kavanaugh, “the questions and colloquies that came out of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary hearings last week have necessitated us taking a position.”

[Read AFN’s full position statement here]

The organization writes that it joins its “colleagues and friends across Indian country in strongly opposing Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court because of, among other things, his views on the rights of Native peoples.”

Some of the concerns raised include Kavanaugh’s position on the Indian Commerce Clause, and whether it applies to the federal government dealing with Indian tribes beyond direct commerce.

The organization also worries that Kavanaugh has been classified by some as more conservative than Justice Clarence Thomas, who has contested Congress’ authority to enact the Indian Child Welfare Act based on his interpretation of the Indian Commerce Clause.

AFN also cites Kavanaugh questioning the legitimacy of recognizing Native Hawaiians, during the Senate Judiciary hearing, due to the fact that Native Hawaiians do not live on reservations and are treated differently by the federal government than tribes in the contiguous U.S.

“To confirm a nominee who does not understand or appreciate the position of Native Hawaiians, and who could weaken the special trust relationship Alaska Natives share with the federal government, would be imprudent,” AFN wrote.

Murkowski met with Kavanaugh three weeks ago, and in a statement afterward, said the two talked about Indian Law, among other things. She said they “had a substantive conversation.”

"It also was important that I seek Judge Kavanaugh’s understanding of the unique legal issues that arise in Alaska. I also appreciated the opportunity to gain more insight into his judicial philosophy."

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