Martha Kavanaugh, the mother of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, was a Maryland trial judge described by her son as a “trailblazer” who was one of the few female prosecutors in her day and who also taught her son the importance of racial equality.
She was, according to a Washington Post story, the first “Judge Kavanaugh” in the family, taking a seat on the Maryland bench years before her son was nominated by President Donald Trump for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brett Kavanaugh brought up his mom extensively during the press conference announcing his nomination for Anthony Kennedy’s seat, saying she went to law school when he was 10. “My introduction to law came at our dinner table,” he said. Both of his parents were at the announcement.
Her trademark line: “Use your common sense. What rings true. What rings false.”
President Donald Trump announced his choice to replace Kennedy on July 9, 2018. Throughout the day, news reports said Trump had vacillated between Brett Kavanaugh, a federal judge who served in the George W. Bush administration, and Thomas Hardiman. Trump mentioned Kavanaugh’s mom in introducing Brett Kavanaugh as his pick to replace Anthony Kennedy.
With the focus now squarely on Brett Kavanaugh, some are wondering about his family, including his mother, Martha Gamble Kavanaugh, the first judge in the family.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brett Kavanaugh’s Mom Was a Judge in Montgomery County Who Practiced Closing Arguments at the Family Dinner Table
A biography for Brett Kavanaugh’s mother describes her as “MARTHA G. KAVANAUGH, Associate Judge, Montgomery County Circuit Court, 6th Judicial Circuit, 1995 to June 2, 2001. Retired June 2, 2001.”
Before that, she served an an “Associate Judge, District Court of Maryland, District 6, Montgomery County, 1993-95,” according to the biography.
“My mom and dad are here. I am their only child. When people ask what it’s like to be an only child, I say, ‘It depends on who your parents are,'” Kavanaugh said at his nomination press conference.
“The president introduced me as Judge Kavanaugh, but to me that title will always belong to my mom,” he said. “My introduction to law came at our dinner table when she practiced her closing arguments.”
2. Martha Kavanaugh Was Also a Barrier-Breaking Prosecutor Who Worked on Spousal Abuse Issues
Before she was a judge, Martha Kavanaugh worked as a prosecutor, according to the bio. She was one of the “first woman prosecutors” at that time, Brett Kavanaugh said in his speech.
“My mom was a trailblazer. When I was 10, she went to law school and became a prosecutor,” Kavanaugh said. “Her trademark line was, ‘Use your common sense. What rings true. What rings false.’ That’s good advice for a juror and for a son. One of the few women prosecutors at that time, she overcame barriers.”
The biography lists her as “Assistant State’s Attorney, Montgomery County, 1978-84. Member, Spouse Abuse Commission, Montgomery County, 1982. Member, Character Committee, Court of Appeals, 1990-93.”
A 1993 story on Kavanaugh’s judicial appointment noted, “Also appointed to a District Court seat in Montgomery County was Rockville attorney Martha Gamble Kavanaugh, 51, a former assistant state’s attorney in Montgomery.”
3. Kavanaugh’s Mother Was Born in New Jersey & Was an Adjunct Professor
Martha Gamble Kavanaugh was born in Newark, New Jersey, September 23, 1941, according to her bio.
She graduated from Trinity College, B.A., 1963, M.A.T., 1968; and from Washington College of Law, The American University, J.D., cum laude, 1978. She was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1978. Her bio describes her as a “member, Maryland State, District of Columbia, Montgomery County and Women’s Bar Associations. Adjunct professor (trial practice), Washington College of Law, The American University, 1990-92.”
Brett Kavanaugh also spoke about his father, Ed, at the nomination press conference, revealing, “my dad went to law school at night while working full-time. He has an unparalleled work ethic and has passed down to me his passion for playing and watching sports. I love him dearly.”
4. Kavanaugh’s Mother Also Worked as a History Teacher in Largely African-American Schools
According to The Washington Post, Brett Kavanaugh’s mother was also a teacher.
Brett said his mom taught in largely African-American schools and taught him the importance of equality for all. “I was lucky,” he said. “My mom was a teacher. In the 1960s and ‘70s, she taught history at two largely African American public high schools in Washington DC… Her example taught me the importance of equality for all Americans.”
“His mother, Martha, a public school teacher in Washington, and his father, Edward, both got their law degrees in 1978 when he was a teenager,” The Post reported.
The newspaper added that Martha Kavanaugh “became the first ‘Judge Kavanaugh’ in the family when she joined the Maryland state bench in 1993.”
5. Martha & Ed Kavanaugh Raised Their Son in Catholic Schools
Brett Kavanaugh was raised Catholic. The Post reported that he attended Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland, where he “excelled in sports and in the classroom” and “took seriously the message of his Jesuit education and talks openly about his Catholicism.”
Today, Kavanaugh and his wife are active in Catholic Charities programs and attend The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Northwest Washington, The Post reported.