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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More