WASHINGTON (AFP) - Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's pick to fill a crucial Supreme Court vacancy, has seen what appeared to be an easy confirmation process up-ended by charges of sexual abuse that allegedly took place decades ago in his youth.
Just two weeks ago, there was only one version of Kavanaugh on public display: The 53-year-old, esteemed conservative judicial thinker, irreproachable family man and coach to his daughter's baseball team.
But since then, another portrait has emerged of the man who, if confirmed, would solidify the rightward tilt of the country's top court - that of a hard partying, heavy drinking student who two women say sexually assaulted or harassed them, one while in high school and the other in college.
On Thursday (Sept 27), the Washington DC appeals court judge will have to defend himself against the most serious of his accusers, a 51-year-old California psychology professor who has said he pinned her down, held his hand over her mouth and attempted to remove her clothes at a party when Kavanaugh was 17 and she was 15.
The accusations have wrong-footed Republican senators who had hoped to push through his confirmation as quickly as possible, and who have sought to portray the charges as a politically motivated ploy by the Democrats to smear the judge.
Trump said Monday (Sept 24) that the charges against Kavanaugh were "totally political" and has described him as "one of the finest people".
Kavanaugh, who was tapped for the post by Trump in July, will emphasise his long record as a judge and legal scholar, as well as his traditional family values and his loyalty to his wife Ashley and their two daughters.
"The Supreme Court must never be viewed as partisan," Kavanaugh insisted during his Senate confirmation hearings, which were often disrupted by the shouts of protesters, many of them women who fear the conservative judge's appointment could throw doubt on the future of abortion rights in the United States.
Kavanaugh, a native of the capital, has served on the important Washington appeals court for more than a decade.
He began his career as a clerk to Anthony Kennedy, the justice long considered a critical swing vote on the Supreme Court, and will succeed him on the bench if confirmed.
He had graduated from prestigious Yale University, where his most recent accuser said he exposed himself to her during a drunken party.
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, which outlined several grounds for Clinton's impeachment.
He went on to become part of George Bush's legal team working on the 2000 Florida recount, which resulted in Bush winning the presidency.
After Bush moved into the White House in 2001, he recruited Kavanaugh as legal counsel before later naming him to the appellate court in 2003.
But Kavanaugh's nomination languished for three years, as Democrats fumed over his participation in Bush's recount team. He was eventually confirmed in 2006.
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 devout Catholic, Kavanaugh is active in various religious groups and is a fervent supporter of gun owners rights.