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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.”

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    Does the book attempt to address the lies that Justice Kavanaugh told during the hearing? Regardless of whether or not an indi­vidual believes the alle­ga­tions, Mr. Kavanaugh delib­er­ately lied about the meaning of and his knowledge of the words in his yearbook and cal­endar from that era. I, for one, couldn’t care less about the fact that he partied during that era — but why lie about it?

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      If he told the truth about his par­tying, he would not have been Approved by this Kan­garoo Court. You know that as well as I. The Dems turned his Con­fir­mation Hearing into an appalling circus and besmirched his char­acter in an atro­cious fashion. His lying was an, under­standable, response to their infantile baiting and hys­terical libel.

      It’s regretful that it’s come to this to get a Supreme Court Justice approved, but the blame lays com­pletely with the Democrats and their minions. When Ruth Bader Ginzburg passes away and if Trump is still Pres­ident, I expect the Dems will pull more stunts that will make the Kavanaugh Hearing look like a cake walk. It’s because of who-and what-they are. In Dem-think, destroying a person’s char­acter with false alle­ga­tions to block their nom­i­nation to a role like this is all in a days work. It’s what happens when your ide­ology trumps your ethics.

      • Jen­nifer Melfi

        so now it is “under­standable” as you say, for a supreme court justice to delib­er­ately tell lies in a con­fir­mation hearing?

        This is the second you have made today regarding a com­plete rejection of fun­da­mental prin­ciples — prin­ciples that should be vital to the Hillsdale expe­rience and worldview… I just can’t believe the types of moral trades you are willing to make here. It puts a pretty big dent in the respect that I had for your opinions if you are wiling to abandon them over some­thing so trivial.

        • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

          Appar­ently you feel no such disgust over the actions of Dr. Ford and her unsup­ported, unsub­stan­tiated, unwit­nessed and decades old alle­ga­tions to bring down a supreme court nominee, in front of his wife and kids? Kavanaugh didn’t make the rules during his nom­i­nation hearing, but he was con­fronted with a fait accompli and had to deal with it as best he could.

          You can respect my opinions or dis­re­spect them, that’s entirely up to you. But when you post one-sided non­sense to this forum I will call you on it. That Circus the Dems turned the Kavanaugh supreme court nom­i­nation hearing into was absolutely appalling, that you find yourself unable to crit­icize it-yet hold Kavanaugh respon­sible for responding in kind-makes your com­ments laughable.

          There it is.

          • Jen­nifer Melfi

            Dr. Ford’s alle­ga­tions were just that — alle­ga­tions. Given the culture of the time and the apparent level of par­tying that Mr. Kavanaugh and his friends pursued, I don’t think it is unrea­sonable to think that this might have hap­pened. Notice that I didn’t say it was likely, but it wouldn’t sur­prise me at all if it had hap­pened. This isn’t a court of law, but a hearing. We need these types of alle­ga­tions on the table before he is nom­i­nated so that his char­acter can be assessed. I can easily hold a justice of the supreme court of our nation respon­sible for lying while under oath. Unfor­tu­nately, in Trump’s America, even the con­ser­v­a­tives are finding cul­tural rel­a­tivism palatable.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            We’re in an war of ide­ologies, if you bring a club to a gun­fight your’e going to lose. With that said, I don’t recall this level of ugliness when Obama’s SC nom­i­na­tions were heard-Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Kagan was arguably the LEAST QUALIFIED nominee we’ve had in many decades-but she was and is a reliable Pro­gressive advocate. Even so, the Repub­licans treated her with respect and con­sid­er­ation at her hearing.

            Cul­tural rel­a­tivism may have been embraced by both Parties, but it’s-like every­thing else-a question of degree. There is no question the Democrats always take the first steps and the biggest steps down the ladder of civility.

          • Jen­nifer Melfi

            I think this is home team memory. 1) there wasn’t much dis­rep­utable about Kagan, nor Sotomayor. If you remember, Neil Gorsuch was also con­firmed without much of a fight. 2) With Sotomayor, there were weeks of repub­licans trying to back her into a corner for having said that her back­ground as a latina woman may have par­tic­u­larly good insight into case judgment.

            I think your uber-par­tisan view of these things is indicative of the general — over­pro­nouncing of every­thing these days. Your getting up there in years, time to relax and enjoy things a bit.

            I mainly post because I know that the Hillsdale college admin­is­tration knows that they are in the wrong on many of these issues, and I know they read my com­ments. So this is a labor of enjoyable love for me. Your stance that you dictate in this thread is exactly what they are embar­rassed about.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            Neither Kagan nor Sotomayor was treated with the ugliness that Kavanaugh was sub­jected to, not even close. There is no question the Democrats took SC nom­i­nation hearings to a new low with their behavior. I expect even worse when RBG resigns/passes away, in fact much worse. Ide­ology is the Left’s religion.

            ‘You’re getting up there in years…’. Wow, how does one respond to that nasty comment? Yeah, I’m getting up there in years-and on my worse day I could think rings around most Mil­lenials-including some who post in these forums. I still put in 50 hours/week, working as a researcher for one of the Big 3 on electric vehicles and high-voltage bat­teris, have a PhD in Elec­trical Engi­neering, have a 99.99 per­centile on Stanford-Binet, play a mean game of Con­tract Bridge/Cribbage/Backgammon and spend my free time ban­tering on internet forum boards and studying quantum mechanics.

            Glad this is a labor of love for you. Unfor­tu­nately, you’re demon­strating a mean streak this fall that is very unat­tractive. I used to enjoy our reparte’ and felt that we both came out of it with some­thing pos­itive. I don’t feel that way anymore.

          • Jen­nifer Melfi
  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    I saw Ms. Hem­ingway on Lou Dobbs’ show tonight, she did a great interview on the NYT’s fiasco article on Judge Kavanaugh.