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

Ukraine President Appeals for More US Support

Speaking before Congress ahead of meeting with President Obama, Petro Poroshenko urges lawmakers to back Ukraine in its quest for freedom and democracy More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20B in India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high-profile visit 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid