News / USA

    Kagan Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings Begin Monday

    Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan begin Monday in Washington. Kagan is President Barack Obama's choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the high court's leading liberal thinker.

    The nine Supreme Court justices are appointed for life after confirmation by the Senate. But before that can happen, nominees must endure a week's worth of confirmation hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they are grilled on their views of the law and their personal backgrounds.

    President Obama's second pick for the Supreme Court is Elena Kagan, who he sees as a worthy successor to the man stepping down from the high court, retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

    "While we can't presume to replace Justice Stevens' wisdom or experience, I have selected a nominee who I believe embodies that same excellence, independence, integrity and passion for the law," he said.

    Stevens is the longest serving member of the current court, having been appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975. And even though Stevens was appointed by a Republican president, he turned out to be the leader of the court's liberal faction.

    Elena Kagan has been serving as the Obama administration's solicitor general, who argues the administration's point of view in cases that go before the Supreme Court.

    "I have felt blessed to represent the United States before the Supreme Court, to walk into the highest court in this country when it is deciding its most important cases, cases that have an impact on so many people's lives," said Kagan.

    Unlike the other members of the current high court, Kagan has no experience as a judge. However, throughout U.S. history, a number of justices ascended to the high court without having served as judges.

    Republicans are expected to ask a lot of questions about her legal views. But the modern history of confirmation hearings is that nominees usually go to great lengths to avoid answering questions about tough issues like abortion, affirmative action and gay marriage.

    "I think we would like to know in a real honest sense whether her philosophy of law is so broad in interpretation of the Constitution that you are not faithful to the Constitution and laws," said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Republicans say they will ask Kagan about her tenure as dean of Harvard University Law School in Massachusetts, and in particular her decision to bar military recruiters on campus because of the U.S. military policy of barring gays from openly serving in the armed forces.

    Most legal and political experts expect Elena Kagan will be confirmed to the high court since Democrats control 59 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats.

    But the hearings can be unpredictable and offer lawmakers and citizens the only chance to screen a nominee prior to a lifetime appointment.

    "We believe in the independent life tenure of judges. It is an extraordinary aspect of our system to have independent life tenure," said Walter Dellinger, who served for a time as the U.S. Solicitor General under President Bill Clinton. "Nomination and confirmation is the democratic moment that precedes the independent life tenure of a judge."

    A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that 43 percent of those asked support Kagan's confirmation while 26 percent oppose her. But 63 percent said they had not heard enough about her to form an opinion.

    That will be an important backdrop to the hearings, says legal expert Robert Alt of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    "We don't know as much about her," he said. "We don't know as much about how it is that she approaches the law, which is ultimately the big question that everyone wants to know the answer to."

    "First of all, she has never been a judge and she doesn't have a huge track record of writings as an academic. And so senators don't have as much to go on to get a feel for what kind of justice she would be," said Rachel Brand, an attorney and a former Justice Department official who used to prepare judicial nominees for the confirmation process under President George W. Bush.

    Those who know Kagan emphasize her ability to work well with others and listen to different points of view, skills that can come in handy when serving on the nine-member Supreme Court.

    "When you take the court you are basically signing on to a professional family relationship with eight other justices and the ability to listen well and to be patient and to be, you know, a true colleague and trying to find common ground are, I would think, some of the paramount skills you would hope for in a Supreme Court justice, said Seth Waxman who served as solicitor general during the Clinton administration.

    The current court is split with four justices generally on the conservative side of the spectrum, four often on the liberal side and one, Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing justice. Kennedy often votes with the four conservatives, meaning the court issues a lot of five to four decisions. If confirmed, Kagan is not expected to alter that balance.

    President Obama wants Kagan confirmed so that she can take her seat in October when the next Supreme Court term begins. Kagan would become the third woman on the current court, joining Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who joined the court just last year.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora