Justice Brett Kavanaugh used a cheeky example in a majority opinion Monday which seemed to reference a controversy over personal debts and baseball tickets that emerged during his confirmation.
The case, Rimini Street v. Oracle USA, asked how much in attorneys fees a victorious party can collect under the federal Copyright Act at the end of an infringement case. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Copyright Act allows litigants to collect additional expenses that are not mentioned in the federal costs statute. Writing for a unanimous court, Kavanaugh said that decision was incorrect.
“The word ‘full’ operates in the phrase ‘full costs’ just as it operates in other common phrases,” Kavanaugh wrote. “A ‘full breakfast’ means breakfast, not lunch. A ‘full season ticket plan’ means tickets, not hot dogs. So too, the term ‘full costs’ means costs, not other expenses.”
Two days after his nomination to the Supreme Court, The Washington Post reported that Kavanaugh accrued tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt buying season tickets for the Washington Nationals. Kavanaugh said he made those purchases on behalf of himself and a group of friends. The justice claims he was reimbursed for those expenses.
ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative outfit, crowdsourced its reporting on the subject, soliciting members of the public who may have seen Kavanaugh at Nationals games to contact them. The move was widely derided by Kavanaugh’s supporters.
The Post reported that Kavanaugh’s debts were either paid off or fell below reporting requirements by 2017.
Those debts became an item of interest as the confirmation process progressed. Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island broached the subject in supplementary questions following Kavanaugh’s first confirmation hearing. The tickets question was a component of a broader tableau which unsubtly suggested that Kavanaugh had an undisclosed gambling problem, though no evidence has yet emerged publicly to that effect.
“Everyone in the group paid me for their tickets based on the cost of the tickets, to the dollar,” Kavanaugh wrote. “No one overpaid or underpaid me for tickets. No loans were given in either direction.”
Monday’s opinion was Kavanaugh’s second for the Court. His first opinion concerned a technical question under the Federal Arbitration Act. That decision was unanimous, as is often true of a new justice’s first majority opinion.
Disclosure: The reporter’s wife was involved in the Oracle case.
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