On the first day of her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan ’81 pledged to judge with the “evenhandedness and impartiality” demanded by the Constitution and said that the high court must “recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”
The solicitor general is widely expected to be confirmed before the court begins a new term in October. If confirmed, Kagan would be the third sitting female Justice and the third consecutive Princetonian to join the court, following the confirmations of Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76 in 2009 and Justice Samuel Alito ’72 in 2006.
“I will listen hard, to every party before the court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law,” Kagan said during her opening statement.
Prior to Kagan’s statement, the 19 senators of the committee – 12 Democrats and seven Republicans – delivered statements that fell largely along party lines.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), the committee’s chairman, urged Kagan to answer questions candidly and urged senators “on both sides to be fair.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) noted that “the rightward shift of the court under Chief Justice Roberts is palpable,” adding that “in decision after decision, special interests are winning out over ordinary citizens … this court bends the law to suit an ideology.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), the top Republican on the committee, raised questions about Kagan’s qualifications. “Ms. Kagan has less real legal experience of any nominee in at least 50 years,” he said.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa) told Kagan, “Your relatively thin record clearly shows that you’ve been a political lawyer.” He said that “a judge needs to be an independent arbiter, not an advocate or rubber-stamp for a political agenda.”
Kagan will begin answering questions before the committee on June 29.
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