It’s Kagen

Ken AshfordSupreme CourtLeave a Comment

Obama is nominating Elena Kagen to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court.  Kagan is currently the Solicitor General representing the United States before the Supreme Court, after a six-year stint as dean of Harvard Law School.  This is the first time in 40 years that a Supreme Court nominee has not previously been a judge.

I won't weigh in her too much.  She's decidedly left-leaning, but she's certainly open to other views, which is one of the reasons that her confirmation will sail through.  Oh, sure — you'll get the usual yokels claiming she's a communist, but in the end, she's going to be overwhelmingly approved.

Year born: 1960
Hometown: New York (Manhattan)
Experience: Solicitor general; Harvard Law School dean; White House associate counsel
Education: Princeton University; Oxford University; J.D., Harvard Law School
Fun fact: Former law clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall, who nicknamed her "Shorty"
Top cases argued as solicitor general:
· Campaign finance reform (Citizens United v. FEC, 2009): Congressional efforts to restrict "independent spending" by corporations and unions in federal political campaigns. Supreme Court ruled against the government in January.
· Terror support (Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 2010): Whether the government's power to criminalize "material support" of a terrorist organization goes too far in restricting civil liberties. Supreme Court ruling
· Religious monuments (Salazar v. Buono, 2009): Can a war memorial shaped like a cross remain on government parkland, or does it violate the constitutional separation of church and state? Justices ruled for the government, saying the cross should remain.
Pros: Her lack of a substantive paper trail on hot-button issues may blunt initial conservative criticism over where she stands on these topics. She has a reputation as a political pragmatist and consensus-builder who enjoys the support of liberal and conservative academics. That perceived ability to reach across the aisle could help Kagan on a divided high court. Her relative youth (she would be the youngest member of the court) could give Obama a longer judicial legacy. She also would provide greater gender diversity to the bench.
Cons: That lack of judicial experience may raise concerns about whether she would be a "reliable" vote on the left. Some liberal groups have also raised concerns that as solicitor general, Kagan has articulated a more robust defense of executive power by the White House than many civil rights and human rights groups would like.