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Mollie Hem­ingway and Carrie Sev­erino talk about their new book, “Justice on Trial,” during an event at The Allan P. Kirby Center in July. Kate Grace | Courtesy

When the gov­ernment shut down in January 2019, Matthew Spalding had an idea. 

A  few Hillsdale stu­dents could not starting their intern­ships in the federal gov­ernment in Wash­ington, D.C. Spalding, Kirby Center Asso­ciate Vice Pres­ident and Dean of Edu­cation Pro­grams offered his stu­dents to help Hillsdale Senior Jour­nalism Fellow Mollie Hem­ingway on her most recent book, “Justice on Trial.”

“I lit­erally had a body of Hillsdale stu­dents here, ready to work,” Spalding said.

A senior editor at The Fed­er­alist and former Pulliam Dis­tin­guished Vis­iting Fellow of Jour­nalism, Hem­ingway has long been a friend of the college, Spalding said. The Fed­er­alist also records its podcast at the Allan P. Kirby Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and States­manship, so Hem­ingway was a familiar face even before the book project began. 

Co-authored by legal scholar Carrie Sev­erino, “Justice on Trial” tells the story of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s fall 2018 con­fi­mation to the Supreme Court. Together with Sev­erino, who used to clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, Hem­ingway inter­viewed more than 100 key players in Kavanaugh’s con­fir­mation process, including the pres­ident, other Supreme Court jus­tices, and sen­ators. Hillsdale stu­dents were able to assist Hem­ingway and Sev­erino, and some were even credited in the book’s acknowl­edge­ments.  

When part of the gov­ernment reopened, Spalding said, most of the Hillsdale stu­dents in town returned to their intern­ships. The Department of Justice was still not oper­a­tional, however, so senior Alexis Nester was still without work. 

Nester con­tinued to work on the project with Kirby Center Research Assistant Krystina Skurk, a 2018 alumna of the Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship, and Solomon Chen, Spalding’s research intern at the time. 

Skurk said she vol­un­teered to help for the project because she felt it was important to correct the nar­rative sur­rounding the Kavanaugh con­fir­mation.

“Hon­estly, it felt so amazing to be a part of this project,” Skurk told The Col­legian in an email. “Every day on my walk home I would see this anti-Kavanaugh poster pasted to a lamp post. I couldn’t believe it was still there so many months after the con­fir­mation battle, but it made me realize how mon­u­mental this fight was and how important it was to record what hap­pened.”

Skurk, Nester, and Chen, along with senior Jackson Frerichs and junior Hannah Thullen, started work on the project when the shutdown started. A few con­tinued working on the project all the way up to when Hem­ingway and Sev­erino delivered the man­u­script to the pub­lishers, Spalding said.

On July 11, the Kirby Center hosted Hem­ingway and Sev­erino for the launch event of “Justice on Trial,” which quickly became a best-seller on Amazon.

“Most political books aren’t very good,” Spalding told the audience at the book launch. “They’re mostly written by politi­cians getting ready for cam­paigns. This is not one of those books.”

Hem­ingway thanked Hillsdale stu­dents and the Kirby Center for the work they did on the book, which was pub­lished only nine months after the Kavanaugh hearings ended. The book, she said, was very thorough despite the short time period in which it was written.

“It took a lot of time. It took a lot of reading of his­torical records and what not. And we could not have done it without the Kirby Center here. We had research assis­tants and jour­nalism assis­tants that were pro­vided to us that were of great value, and we are so appre­ciative of them,” Hem­ingway told attendees at the event. 

Hem­ingway also thanked Nester for doing some reporting for the book, and Chen and Skurk for their research assis­tance. 

“We are so grateful for having those resources pro­vided to us; we are very appre­ciative of that support,” Hem­ingway said. “This could not have been done without that level of support, and we appre­ciate it.”

Spalding said that being able to assist with “Justice on Trial” was a great oppor­tunity for Hillsdale stu­dents who come to Wash­ington, D.C., for the Wash­ington-Hillsdale Internship Program. 

“You know, these things pop up, and being able to have smart stu­dents who can do that kind of thing is a great oppor­tunity,” Spalding said. “In par­ticular, Mollie is a won­derful jour­nalist, and Carrie Sev­erino is a great legal thinker. It was a won­derful team and this was a real oppor­tunity for Hillsdale stu­dents to assist them in their work, and they shined in helping them get the book done.”