Elena Kagan is President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. She is a former law school dean at Harvard and has served in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Her latest position is as Solicitor General for the Obama administration in which she argues cases before the Supreme Court. Unlike most recent Supreme Court nominees, Kagan does not have experience as a judge and she has been involved in some controversy. The writers at the Political Panorama weigh in on whether they feel Kagan will be confirmed and whether she should be confirmed.
While I don’t have the same sense of degree of judicial integrity for Elena Kagan as I did for Sonia Sotomayor and John Roberts, I do feel Kagan is qualified and should be confirmed. I suspect she will be confirmed in numbers similar to Sonia Sotomayor.
Because she has not previously been a justice, it is difficult to have any sense of where she stands on the issues. She has worked for Democratic administrations and in her confirmation hearings she has hinted this may shed some limited light on her views. However, it is difficult to extrapolate from these political positions in two administrations what 1) her personal views are, or 2) what her judicial views will be. Throughout history, we have seen that personal, political, and judicial views are often very different.
The only real controversy comes from her time as the law school dean at Harvard. She did not allow military recruiters on campus because campus policy forbid organizations from activities on campus if they violated the school’s anti-discrimination policies (“don’t ask, don’t tell“). However, if anything this provides merit for her confirmation as a justice as it shows that despite what her personal or political views may be, she still carried out the letter of the law in an objective and unbiased way.
If there is anything that has been noteworthy about this Supreme Court appointment, it has been the non-raucous nature of the hearings. Usually, these sort of appointments are met with strategy meetings on the right and left, and concerted pressure from groups on both sides of the aisle to get the Senate to vote their way on a nominee. However, that has been remarkably absent (or at the very least, not very visible).
That speaks to the strength of the nominee, perhaps. While I initially favored Diane Wood, a federal judge in Chicago, and Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears over Elena Kagan, she has proven to be a solid choice for a nominee. It still has not changed my mind that she was a safe pick, designed to avoid any sort of controversy. However, she will be a reliable liberal vote on the court and, hopefully, someone that will be able to convince Justice Anthony Kennedy to start voting with the liberals on the court in some more cases.
I have mixed thoughts about Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Honestly, I feel that because there are no “bombshells” against her, she will get approved in a partisan manner to replace the retiring Justice Stevens. Republicans have tried hard to work against her and break her into saying something that she would regret like saying how she would vote in certain scenarios, etc.
I don’t like that tactic, and the reality of the entire situation is that we need to be looking at how she will be as a Justice. My biggest concern is her relatively small legal career. She was in private law practice from 1988-1991. She entered academia and was a professor at the University of Chicago’s law school. She became a full professor.
In 1999, she served President Clinton as an Associate White House Council. When Clinton tried to appoint Kagan to the US Court of Appeals in the D.C. circuit, her nomination was essentially haulted when Orin Hatch scheduled no confirmation hearing. She then returned to academia, becoming eventually Harvard Law School’s Dean. She inherited and led a fundraising effort of over $400 million.
You can read the rest of her biography on her own. My point is that she has very little experience when it comes to Supreme Court hearings, what to be expected, etc. Over 1/3 of the Deans of the U.S. law schools signed an open letter endorsing Elena Kagan’s nomination.
Does America need a United States Supreme Court Justice that has never been a judge? Do we need and want a judge that hasn’t argued many cases in court, and none to the Supreme Court. I would say no. We need someone with a good mix of legal experience and academic experience. There is a huge difference in leading a successful fundraising campaign and teaching law school and be a sitting member of the U.S. Supreme Court.