Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan: Senate Confirmation Hearing Roundup

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:


Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Solicitor General Elena Kagan faced questions from senators including, clockwise from top left, Jeff Sessions, Patrick J. Leahy, Ted Kaufman, Arlen Specter, Al Franken, Jon Kyl, Charles E. Grassley and Orrin G. Hatch.

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Kagan will be Confirmed: Elena Kagan is speeding toward confirmation as the 112th Supreme Court justice, with Republicans showing little appetite for a long-shot filibuster attempt after sparring with her over abortion, gays in the military and other divisive issues. “Solicitor General Kagan will be confirmed,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., confidently predicted as the Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up its examination of President Barack Obama’s high court pick…. – AP, 7-1-10
  • The Kagan Hearings and Politics of Life Tenure on Supreme Court Should Congress Impose Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices?: If Elena Kagan is confirmed to the Supreme Court and she serves until she’s 90 — the age of her predecessor Justice John Paul Stevens — she would become the longest serving justice in U.S. history. It’s a weighty and not unreasonable prospect that has hovered over her Senate confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill this week, fueling tough questioning of the 50 year-old nominee who faces appointment for life.
    In a new CSPAN poll, 53 percent of Americans say they “disagree” with the policy that says justices should remain on the bench as long as they display “good behavior.”… – ABC News, 7-1-10
  • Elena Kagan Confirmation Hearings Liveblog, Day 3 – Talk Radio News, 6-30-10
  • SCOTUS Hearings Live Blog: Elena Kagan Day 2CBS News, 6-29-10
  • SCOTUS Hearings Live Blog: Elena Kagan Day 1CBS News, 6-28-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • SPIN METER: What happened to the Kagan standard?: Elena Kagan declined to discuss her passions, demurred when asked anything that might tip her hand on the Supreme Court and invoked her right to remain inscrutable even on cases buried in the past. In short, Kagan did her best to ensure her high court nomination hearing was just the kind of benign event she criticized years ago for lacking “seriousness and substance.”…. – AP, 7-1-10
  • Kagan Ends Hearings, Confirmation In Sight: After Third Day of Senate Testimony, Dems and Republicans Agree Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan Will Likely be Confirmed… – CBS News, 6-30-10
  • Republicans Press Kagan on Social Issues: They grilled her on her handling of military recruitment at Harvard Law School. They highlighted how, as an aide to President Bill Clinton, she helped edit a medical group’s statement to strengthen support for the procedure critics call partial-birth abortion. They painted her as a partisan and suggested she would be too deferential to Congress when reviewing the constitutionality of sweeping legislation, like President Obama’s landmark health care law.
    But try as they might, Republicans could not knock Solicitor General Elena Kagan off her stride. And as her second day of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee wound down on Wednesday, some conceded that her confirmation to the Supreme Court was all but assured… – NYT, 7-1-10
  • Court Jester? Kagan Draws Laughs at Confirmation Hearings: There isn’t a two drink minimum at the Senate Judiciary Committee, but maybe there should be. At times Elena Kagan’s hearings have felt more like Kagan’s comedy club than a Supreme Court confirmation hearing…. – CBS News, 6-30-10
  • Elena Kagan, if Supreme Court doesn’t work out, try the Borscht Belt: She won’t bite on THE Twilight question. She cracks a fortune cookie comeback to an odd question on Christmas. If Elena Kagan should somehow not be confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court, she could try the Borscht Belt. That was the old route for Jewish comics through the Catskills resorts popular as retreats for urban Jews like those from her home turf on the Upper West Side… – USA Today, 6-30-10
  • Kagan Follows Precedent by Offering Few Opinions: Elena Kagan deflected questions about her own views on gun rights and abortion during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Tuesday, instead describing Supreme Court precedents. She declined to say whether terrorism suspects must be warned of the right to remain silent, saying the issue was “quite likely to get to the courts.”
    Ms. Kagan’s responses, during a long and sometimes tense day of parrying with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were similar to those of Supreme Court nominees past. But unlike her predecessors, Ms. Kagan wrote a 1995 article calling for judicial nominees to be more forthcoming. On Tuesday, minutes into her testimony, she backpedaled, saying she now believed it would be inappropriate even to answer questions that might “provide some kind of hints” about her views on matters of legal controversy.
    “I think that that was wrong,” she said. “I think that — in particular, that it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about what I think about past cases — you know, to grade cases — because those cases themselves might again come before the court.”… – NYT, 6-30-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Elena Kagan’s Opening Statement: Excerpts: “Mr. Chairman, the law school I had the good fortune to lead has a kind of motto, spoken each year at graduation. We tell the new graduates that they are ready to enter a profession devoted to “those wise restraints that make us free.” That phrase has always captured for me the way law, and the rule of law, matters. What the rule of law does is nothing less than to secure for each of us what our Constitution calls “the blessings of liberty” – those rights and freedoms, that promise of equality, that have defined this nation since its founding. And what the Supreme Court does is to safeguard the rule of law, through a commitment to even-handedness, principle, and restraint.
    “The idea is engraved on the very face of the Supreme Court building: Equal Justice Under Law. It means that everyone who comes before the Court – regardless of wealth or power or station – receives the same process and the same protections. What this commands of judges is even-handedness and impartiality. What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American.
    “[T]he Supreme Court is a wondrous institution. But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one – properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives. What I most took away from those experiences was simple admiration for the democratic process. That process is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests. The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”
    “I’ve led a school whose faculty and students examine and discuss and debate every aspect of our law and legal system. And what I’ve learned most is that no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom. I’ve learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide. I’ve learned that we come closest to getting things right when we approach every person and every issue with an open mind. And I’ve learned the value of a habit that Justice Stevens wrote about more than fifty years ago – of ‘understanding before disagreeing.’
    I will make no pledges this week other than this one – that if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons. I will listen hard, to every party before the Court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.” – CBS News, 6-28-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Jonathan Sarna: Is Kagan’s Jewishness Being Used Against Her?: Jewish groups may be even more silent than usual because Kagan, if confirmed, would be the third Jew at one time on the Supreme Court — an historic first. Brandeis historian Jonathan Sarna said Jewish groups tend to be quieter when the nominee is Jewish. “Privately, there’s a residual concern that maybe if we’re noisy, we could hurt the nominee and that it might raise anti-Semitic comments about the candidate.” — NY Jewish Week, 6-30-10
  • E.J. Dionne Jr: The New Republic: Liberals And The Judiciary:
    This week’s hearings over Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court will mark a sea change in the way liberals argue about the judiciary.
    Democratic senators are planning to put the right of citizens to challenge corporate power at the center of their critique of activist conservative judging, offering a case that has not been fully aired since the days of the great Progressive Era Justice Louis Brandeis.
    It was Brandeis who warned against the “concentration of economic power” and observed that “so-called private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state.”
    None of this means that Kagan’s nomination is in jeopardy. On the contrary, she’ll be approved easily, and should be. She will be calm and reassuring during her hearings that start Monday. And unless we live in an age of partisan double standards, she can’t be asked to be anymore forthcoming about her views than were Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Samuel Alito…. – NPR, 6-28-10

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Officer and Professor Faulted for Confrontation at Home

Source: NYT, 7-1-10

The Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Cambridge police sergeant who arrested him last July missed opportunities to “ratchet down” an avoidable confrontation that set off a national debate on race, class and policing, according to a report released Wednesday by an independent panel.

Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. challenged a police sergeant.

“The committee believes that the incident was sparked by misunderstandings and failed communications between the two men,” said the report, titled “Missed Opportunities, Shared Responsibilities.”

It was written by the Cambridge Review Committee, a 12-member group of law enforcement officials, community members and experts on race relations and conflict resolution that was convened in September to review the arrest of Professor Gates and make recommendations to the police on issues of race and police authority….READ MORE

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