05.12.10

Comments Following A Meeting With Solicitor General Elena Kagan

Solicitor General Kagan and I have just finished our meeting.  I am impressed with her knowledge and legal background, as I was when the President nominated her to serve as Solicitor General of the United States, the country’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court. 

Unlike the last time she was nominated to a judgeship, this time, I could assure her, and can assure you, that she will receive a hearing.  I will do my best to make sure that is a fair hearing. 

Solicitor General Kagan is at the top of the legal profession.  She is no stranger to breaking glass ceilings.  She is the first woman to serve as the Solicitor General of the United States, and was the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School.  She can bring the number of woman serving on our Supreme Court to three for the first time in our history.

I found our private meeting to be helpful and hope she did, as well.  We discussed a number of things, and I expect many of those issues will be raised during her confirmation hearing. 

I have urged many Presidents to look outside what I have long called “the judicial monastery,” and to not feel restricted to considering only Federal appellate judges as potential Supreme Court nominees.  

When the President announced his selection on Monday, he talked about her legal mind, her intellect, her record of achievement, her temperament and her fair-mindedness.  I was interested to hear the President talk about her learning from Justice Marshall that “behind law, there are stories – stories of people’s lives as shaped by the law, stories of people’s lives as might be changed by the law.”  He said that her understanding of law is not merely intellectual – or ideological—but of how it affects the lives of people. 

That is important to me.  We have seen recently how a narrow, conservative majority of the Nation’s highest court has ignored congressional intent and the Court’s own precedent, overturning decades of law to limit protections for workers of all ages, curb access to courts, and muffle Americans’ voices in their elections. 

We heard Solicitor General Kagan talk Monday about upholding the rule of law and enabling all Americans to get a fair hearing.  She said “law matters; because it keeps us safe, because it protects our most fundamental . . . freedoms; and because it is the foundation of our democracy.”  Like her, I believe law matters and matters in people’s lives. The Constitution is our protection.   

The President has made his nomination.  Now the Senate will fulfill its responsibility.  As we have already seen, there are those on the extreme right who are spoiling for a fight.  The overheated rhetoric ought to be set aside as we proceed.  Let us be fair to her and fair to her distinguished record. 

The American people will have the opportunity to see and hear Elena Kagan for themselves during our hearing.  That is where Senators on both sides of the aisle will have the opportunity to raise questions.  I expect that after reviewing her record and hearing from her during the Judiciary Committee’s hearing, Senators on both sides of the aisle and the American people will conclude that Elena Kagan is qualified to serve on the Nation’s highest court.

I will now take a few of your questions.

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