Trump SCOTUS Nominee Kavanaugh’s Legal Safety Record

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By Fatima Hussein and Bruce Rolfsen

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, had a role on one of the highest-profile Occupational Safety and Health Administration cases in the past decade—SeaWorld of Florida LLC’s appeal of a citation alleging the company failed to protect trainers working with killer whales at its aquarium in Orlando, Fla.

Trump announced his intent to nominate Kavanaugh July 9 at the White House. Kavanaugh has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In February 2010, an orca whale clamped down on the hair of a trainer at a pool’s edge and pulled her into the tank, killing the woman. OSHA accused SeaWorld of three violations and sought a $75,000 fine. SeaWorld appealed.

Lower courts upheld the fine and citations. In 2012, SeaWorld of Fla. LLC v. Perez reached the D.C. Circuit, where Kavanaugh was one of three judges to hear the case. In April 2014, by a 2-1 vote, the court upheld OSHA’s citation, while Kavanaugh dissented.

Kavanaugh—a former clerk for Kennedy and President George W. Bush staff secretary —was with the majority, however, in Dayton Tire Co. v. Sec’y of Labor in which the agency cited Dayton Tire, even though the case was about 17 years old when it reached the appeals court.

The appeals court decision called the delay by the administrative court overseeing OSHA appeals “excessive and deplorable” but added that delay didn’t warrant dismissing the case. The court affirmed the citations but said the violations weren’t willful.

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