Sundance documentary looks at Brett Kavanaugh investigation

Sundance documentary looks at Brett Kavanaugh investigation

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 07: Deputy Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh poses for an official portrait on October 7, 2022 in the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court Building.

Getty Images | Alex Wang

A new documentary examines the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and raises questions about the depth of the 2018 FBI investigation.

Filmmaker Doug Liman’s “Justice” premiered Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival to a sold-out theater surrounded by armed guards.

The film, which was shot in top secrecy, focuses on allegations by Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, detailed in a 2018 New York article. Ramirez claimed that while meeting friends when she was a freshman in 1983, Kavanaugh pulled his pants down and thrust his penis at her. Kavanaugh has denied these claims. “Justice” also plays a tape recording of a tip given to the FBI by another Yale classmate, Max Stier, describing a similar incident that the FBI never investigated.

The Taurus report was detailed back in 2019 by New York Times reporters Robin Pogebrin and Kate Kelly as part of their book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation. But the details of it have come under scrutiny. After the story went online but before it appeared in print, the Times revised the story, adding that the book reported that the woman allegedly involved in the incident refused to be interviewed and that her friends say she doesn’t remember the incident.

Stier was not interviewed directly for the film and declined the filmmakers’ request to comment on the plot. An unnamed person, whose voice was manipulated to anonymize it, provided the filmmakers with the Taurus tape.

Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th Justice of the US Supreme Court in October 2018, after a narrow 50-48 roll call after a bitter sexual misconduct debate. He strenuously denied the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, who says he sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager.

Many people referenced in the film, from Kavanaugh himself to several of Ramirez’s friends who were said to be there, also declined to speak or never responded.

“Justice” is particularly critical of the FBI investigation that took place after the hearings. Through FOIA requests, the filmmakers found that approximately 4,500 tips were submitted to the tipline that were not investigated.

One of Ramirez’s Yale friends who was interviewed for the film provided text messages in which a mutual friend admits to having been contacted by “Kavanaugh’s people” and joined in the narrative that Ramirez didn’t remember things properly .

Blasey Ford appears in new footage for only the first few moments of Justice, asking Liman, a filmmaker known for Swingers and The Bourne Identity, why he’s making this film — a question he doesn’t fully answered.

In a Q&A after the film, Liman said he was just outraged after seeing her testimony in 2018. The making of the film, which they financed themselves, was secret. Everyone signed non-disclosure agreements, Liman said, and they even had codenames for those who agreed to attend. He said people were “terrified” and that those who came forward were “heroes”.

The focus is mostly on telling the story of Ramirez – where she came from, how she ended up at Yale and what kind of person she is and was. Several academics specializing in trauma, as well as lawyers, help explain why the memory of traumatic events is reliably fractured and how these gaps can be weaponized by prosecutors.

Justice’s surprise entry into the festival was announced on Thursday, the first day of the festival, but it quickly became one of the most anticipated films in a list of over 100. At least part of the reason for something like ” justice”. Debuting at Sundance is about creating a stir and securing a distributor. As many of the lawyers in the film say, the issue is whether or not Kavanaugh committed perjury under oath.

When asked what he wants to happen when audiences see Justice, Liman said, “I feel like the job ends with the movie and what happens after that is beyond my control.”

His producer Amy Hardy stood beside him and said she disagreed. Hardy said she hopes this will spark outrage and lead to “a real subpoena investigation.”