07.13.10

Leahy Announces Support For Kagan Nomination

Judiciary Committee Chairman Will Support Nomination

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Tuesday that he will support the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on Kagan’s nomination, but Committee Republicans invoked a Committee rule to delay the vote for one week.

“Solicitor General Kagan demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the law and fidelity to it,” Leahy said of Kagan’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee.  “She spoke of judicial restraint, her respect for our democratic institutions, and her commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law.  She made clear that she will base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution, not politics or an ideological agenda.”

“I will cast my vote in support of Solicitor General Kagan’s nomination,” Leahy continued.  “I believe she will ably fill the seat occupied for decades by Justice Stevens with dignity and honor.  It is my hope that when the Supreme Court next convenes, three women will be serving together among the nine Justices.”

Solicitor General Kagan appeared before the Committee for three days starting on June 28, testifying for more than 17 hours and answering over 540 questions.  More than 200 written questions were submitted, and she provided the responses to the Committee last Friday.

Of Kagan’s testimony, Leahy said, “Solicitor General Kagan also demonstrated a traditional view about deference to Congress and judicial precedent, a view that conservatives used to embrace, and some still do.  She indicated that she will not be the kind of Justice who would substitute her personal preferences and overrule congressional efforts to protect hardworking Americans pursuant to our constitutional role.  Solicitor General Kagan made us one pledge, that she will do her ‘best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.’”

The Committee will meet next Tuesday, July 20, to vote on Solicitor General Kagan’s nomination.

For more information about the Kagan nomination, including responses to questions submitted for the record, the completed Committee questionnaire, and video archives of the confirmation hearing, visit the Senate Judiciary Committee website.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Nomination Of Solicitor General Elena Kagan
To Be An Associate Justice Of The Supreme Court Of The United States
July 13, 2010

Today we meet to consider the President’s nomination to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens.  Justice Stevens was the first Supreme Court nomination on which I voted when I came to the Senate.  He provided extraordinary service to the country.

Our hearing on the nomination of Elena Kagan was held two weeks ago.  During that hearing, Solicitor General Kagan answered questions more fully than other recent nominees.  She engaged with Senators about the role of the courts and the meaning of our Constitution.  Her intelligence, grounding in the law, and good humor were evident to all. 

Senators agreed with some of her answers and were not satisfied with others.  That is no surprise. Whether a nominee agrees with each of us on particular issues or particular cases is not the test for considering nominations to the Court.  Based on my review of Solicitor General Kagan’s record and her answers to the Committee, I understand that she and I will not always agree.  I did not agree with every decision by Justice Stevens or Justice Souter or Justice O’Connor, but I have great respect for their judgment and judicial independence.  I have never regretted my vote in favor of those Justices, each nominated by a Republican President.

The 100 of us who serve in the United States Senate stand in the shoes of more than 300 million Americans as we discharge our constitutional duty with respect to this nomination.  In reviewing Elena Kagan’s record and in listening carefully to her answers to the more than 500 questions posed at our hearing, I looked to see whether Solicitor General Kagan would fairly apply the law and use common sense.  I looked to see whether as a Justice she would appreciate the proper role of the courts in our democracy, and whether she would make decisions in light of the fundamental purposes of the law.  I tried to determine whether she understands why the law matters, whether she would have the good sense to appreciate the significance of the facts in the cases in front of her, and consider the consequences of the Court’s decisions in the lives of Americans.  Would she be the kind of independent Justice who would keep faith with each of the words inscribed in Vermont marble over the front doors to the Supreme Court -- “Equal Justice Under Law”?  

Those are the standards I have applied to every Supreme Court nomination, including the six Justices nominated by Republican Presidents that I have supported, and the three nominated by Democratic Presidents.

Solicitor General Kagan demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the law and fidelity to it.  She spoke of judicial restraint, her respect for our democratic institutions, and her commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law.  She made clear that she will base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution, not politics or an ideological agenda.  

Solicitor General Kagan also demonstrated a traditional view about deference to Congress and judicial precedent, a view that conservatives used to embrace, and some still do.  She indicated that she will not be the kind of Justice who would substitute her personal preferences and overrule congressional efforts to protect hardworking Americans pursuant to our constitutional role.  Solicitor General Kagan made us one pledge, that she will do her “best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.”

I will cast my vote in support of Solicitor General Kagan’s nomination.  I believe she will ably fill the seat occupied for decades by Justice Stevens with dignity and honor.  It is my hope that when the Supreme Court next convenes, three women will be serving together among the nine Justices.  I wish Justice O’Connor were still serving, as well. 

I hope that we will not see needless delay today.  After the hearing, I granted a Republican request for extended time to ask additional written questions.  Republicans proceeded to propound more than 200 questions and subparts.  Responses were received last week.  It has been 13 days since the nominee completed her testimony.  When Democrats were in the minority on this Committee, we agreed to vote on the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts just seven days after his testimony concluded.  We voted on the nomination of Justice Alito 12 days after he concluded his testimony.  A number of Senators have already announced their votes.  Accordingly, I hope we will not be forced to needlessly delay Committee action.

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