Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump Monday nominated conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, a decision set to tilt the top judicial body further to the right with momentous implications for American society.
A former advisor to George W. Bush who now sits on the US Court of Appeals in Washington, Kavanaugh began his career as a clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, and will succeed him on the nine-seat bench when he retires at the end of the month.
"Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law," Trump said as he announced his much-anticipated decision in a prime-time address from the White House.
"There is no one in America more qualified for this position and no one more deserving," Trump said, urging the Senate to swiftly confirm his nominee.
Kennedy long served as the tie-breaking swing vote between the Supreme Court's conservatives and liberals, and his departure handed Trump an opportunity to place a decidedly conservative stamp on the bench.
The US leader kept the suspense running for days over his choice for the crucial vacancy, narrowing the selection down to a shortlist of four judges, all with solid right-wing credentials.
"Justice Kennedy devoted his career to securing liberty. I am deeply honored to be nominated to fill his seat on the Supreme Court," the 53-year-old Kavanaugh said as he received the nomination.
"My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law," he said.
"A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent."
A Yale University graduate, Kavanaugh has demonstrated his conservative credentials on numerous occasions, including when he opposed Obamacare, the sweeping universal health insurance plan unveiled under Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
In the 1990s, he led an investigation into the suicide of Bill Clinton aide Vince Foster, who was linked to the Whitewater controversy that began as a probe into the presidential couple's real estate investments.
Kavanaugh later contributed to prosecutor Kenneth Starr's report into Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
After moving into the White House in 2001, Bush recruited Kavanaugh as legal counsel before later naming him to the appellate court.
In 2012, Kavanaugh was part of a panel that scrapped an Environmental Protection Agency measure aimed at reducing air pollution in the United States.
He recently voiced disagreement with a court decision allowing a teenage unauthorized immigrant to get an abortion.
A practicing Catholic active in various religious organizations, Kavanaugh is a married father of two girls.