Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was greeted with a standing ovation by members of the Federalist Society in Washington, D.C., as he gave his first public speech since being narrowly confirmed to the nation's highest court last year.
Kavanaugh said repeatedly during his address Thursday night to some 2,000 members of the conservative lawyers network in attendance for the society's annual black-tie gala that he was grateful, optimistic and appreciative.
"I will always be grateful," he said. "I will always be on the sunrise side of the mountain. I will always be not afraid."
During his half-hour speech, he spoke of his eight Supreme Court justices fondly, calling them "patriots" who "love our court and our country."
"I'm grateful for Justice Ginsburg for being so generous to me," he said.
The speech at the society's Antonin Scalia Memorial Dinner as part of its 2019 National Lawyers Convention came a year after the Yale alumni's chance to sit at the high court was nearly dashed by allegations of sexual misconduct that delayed his confirmation for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear testimony from Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
During his speech he addressed the lengthy and public hearings, stating he is grateful to those who stood by him.
"I signed up for what I know would be an ugly process -- maybe not that ugly -- but my friends did not. And yet in the midst of it all, they stood up and the stood by me," he said.
However, not everyone was as receptive to his words as protesters inside Union Station and out continued their objections to his confirmation.
Protesters with Demand Justice, a group aimed at reforming U.S. federal courts, interrupted his speech with whistles and yelling of "We believe survivors" before being escorted from the building.
Outside, the group erected a large screen, blasting Ford's testimony from the confirmation hearing.
"The Federalist Society is trying to rehabilitate a credibly accused sexual predator and we will not allow them to forget Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh's other accusers," Demand Justice Senior Counsel Katie O'Connor said in a statement. "Kavanaugh is not the hero of this story. We still believe Christine Blasey Ford and we won't let him forget that. Putting on a new robe can't be allowed to erase credible accusations of sexual assault."
Alliance for Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group, accused the Federalist Society of spending millions to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because it was "confident" he would rule in their favor.
"The wealthy and powerful members of the Federalist Society spent millions of dollars supporting Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court," said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron in a statement. "... How could anyone who enters the Supreme Court believe that Kavanaugh will rule fairly and without bias knowing how invested he is in the Federalist Society's extremely partisan mission?"
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., an outspoken critic of the court, said the White House has "in-sourced" the society to select President Donald Trump's justice nominees, calling it a machine run by its executive vice president, Leonard Leo, to turn "hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money into federal judges."
"A private organization funded by anonymous donors having an improper role in the selection of judges and justices is bad enough," Whitehouse said in a statement. "A Supreme Court justice returning favors to that organization is even worse."