Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Elena Kagan: To Be or Not To Be?

Anya’s opinion:

Elena Kagan is perfectly boring. And that is why she is the perfect Supreme Court nominee for this time.  President Obama cannot afford another knock-down drag-out fight with Senate Republicans, not after the battle over healthcare, the will-they won't-they of financial reform, the vortex of doom that is Arizona's immigration law, the Times Square bomber, the non-handling of the BP oil spill . . . the list goes on. And a SCOTUS nominee fight is an especially unsavory concept in an election year, when many Republicans will be looking to seem as conservative as possible in order to pander to their base.

Ashley’s opinion:

I find that she doesn't really have any record very scary/very exciting. It is a bit horrifying in general to see anyone without much of a "paper trail" because we are so used to everyone being on the map and instantly knowing everything about them (hello...twitter) and thus comes the exciting's unique. Now, maybe going with the trait "unique" isn't the best way to nominate someone for a seat on "the supremes"(sorry, I'm cheesy sometimes); but it's golden in my book. Personally, not having a "paper trail", yes means you are a wild card and that's bad for a president who wants to push his agenda and wants what he wants when he wants it, but you also get the rare chance to be excited about the decisions the Court makes. It's like Christmas...if you knew what the presents were already you wouldn't be that excited to open them...anticipation is the best feeling. And also I must admit, I wouldn't hate it too much if Obama were to pick someone who was a wild card and she ended up not always siding with the "liberal side". Generally, the President wants to put someone with their ideologies on the Court. However, agreeing with Anya, this may be the closest he can get to a "liberal" because the Senate won't confirm anyone more liberal. So, in that sense it's good that she doesn't have a paper trail because it will give her some leeway when the Senate Judiciary Committee takes a shot or two at her. I think she'd be an okay candidate, but not great, but I think for right now "okay" is all that Obama is going to get.
Also, there is a great West Wing episode that shows how they pick the candidates for the Court. It's called "The Supremes" (special thanks to my classmate who brought it in to Government class).

Kagan has spent much of her career in academia (professor at University of Chicago Law School, dean of Harvard Law school), with a brief foray into politics during her years working as associate White House Counsel during the Clinton years. She has little paper trail and has never served as a justice, even though she was nominated for the D.C. Circuit Court in 1999 (her nomination was never brought to a vote). She was also the first female solicitor general. But,since she has never been a judge one might venture to say she lacks experience in that area. Although being a lawyer and being a judge both involve knowing the laws, they are different jobs. A judge is stoic and calm and interprets and enforces the law by how the law is written. The judge, in a courtroom, holds all the power and is the mediator and voice of reason during disputes. Attorneys have to be strong and argumentative as well as convincing to make their point and shoot down the other sides point simultaneously. They have to be one-sided, and the right side is the on they are arguing. I would definitely be more comfortable with Kagan if she had held the position as a judge before becoming a justice of the "highest court in the land."

Overall, we are very excited to watch the Senate confirmation hearings (because the SCOTUS nominees are nominated by the President and then confirmed or not confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee) on C-SPAN. No matter who it is, they are always exciting to watch and the candidates are always sure to be "grilled". They start June 28, 2010 and you can watch on C-SPAN (if you don't have the channel no worries, they have a live feed on their website and that's where Anya and I spend too much time).

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