Category Archives: Supreme Court

Elena Kagan, In Her Own Words

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Jesse Lee


On Monday you heard the President speak at length about Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s brilliant career, her deep understanding of how the law affects real lives, and the family that instilled values of education and service in her from childhood.  We also posted an extensive list of commentary from the media, Congress, and legal experts praising her experience and reputation for building consensus.

Today we wanted to share a look at Kagan in her own words.

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Filed under Change, Pres. Barack Obama, Supreme Court, Uncategorized

Elena Kagan: What They’re Saying

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Jessie Lee

Here’s a run-down of the reaction so far to the President’s nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court.

News Coverage

ABC News: Kagan “Is Considered One of the Finest Legal Scholars in the Country. “Kagan, 50, is considered one of the finest legal scholars in the country, dazzling both fellow liberal and conservative friends with her intellectual and analytical prowess but also her ability to find consensus among ideological opposites.” [ABCNews.com, 5/10/10]

Fox News Channel’s Shannon Bream: Kagan Will Garner Bipartisan Support in the Senate “Because She’s Had a Very Distinguished Career. No One Would Argue Anything But That She is a Brilliant Individual – She’s Got a Fantastic Resume. And She Is Known as Being a Consensus-Builder.” Fox News Channel’s Shannon Bream: “So I would think that this is the kind of nominee that will have [Sen. Reid’s] full backing, his full support, and that of many, many other top Democrats and even some Republicans in the Senate, because she’s had a very distinguished career. No one would argue anything but that she is a brilliant individual – she’s got a fantastic resume. And she is known as being a consensus-builder, I mean, something that’s been discussed with her before. When she was a dean at Harvard she brought together a lot of people, students and faculty, and was really seen as somebody who was a bridge builder.” [Fox News Channel via Media Matters, 5/9/10]

Associated Press: “In Nominating Kagan to Replace Justice John Paul Stevens, President Barack Obama Has Chosen and Brilliant Legal Scholar.” “In nominating Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, President Barack Obama has chosen a brilliant legal scholar with liberal views and conservative friends. Kagan, 50, already has won Senate confirmation once, after Obama nominated her to be solicitor general, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.” [Associated Press, 5/10/10]

CBS News’ Jan Crawford: “The Justices Really Like Her. You Should See Justice Scalia, a Conservative, and Kagan Going Back and Forth. So the White House Sees That as a Real Plus. And They Expect Her to Be a Very Effective Jurist on That Court.” “I’ve known her for a long time, she was a professor of mine at the University of Chicago Law School and she’s very engaging, quite dynamic in her personality. And you see that when she’s arguing cases before the Supreme Court. The justices really like her. You should see Justice Scalia, a conservative, and Kagan going back and forth. So the White House sees that as a real plus. And they expect her to be a very effective jurist on that court.” “CBS Early Show,” 5/10/10]

Associated Press: Kagan “Has Enjoyed a Blazing Legal Career.” “Kagan is known as sharp and politically savvy and has enjoyed a blazing legal career. She was the first female dean of Harvard Law School, first woman to serve as the top Supreme Court lawyer for any administration, and now first in Obama’s mind to succeed legendary liberal Justice John Paul Stevens.” [Associated Press, 5/10/10]

USA Today: Kagan Is “A Highly Credentialed Lawyer,” “Had a Reputation for Bringing Together Ideological Factions.” “In choosing Kagan, Obama has turned to a highly credentialed lawyer who has spent her career in the corridors of legal power, including the past year as the government’s advocate before the justices. As former dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan had a reputation for bringing together ideological factions. That style might help her bridge differences on the divided court. If confirmed, she will be the third woman on the current bench — and the fourth woman in the court’s 221-year history.” [USA Today, 5/10/10]

Senators

Sen. Patrick Leahy: Kagan “Broke the Glass Ceiling” As First Woman to Serve as Solicitor General and Dean of Harvard Law School; “Her Historic Accomplishments and the Way She Has Conducted Herself in These Positions Has Earned Her a Place at the Top of the Legal Profession” and Her Nomination “Will Bring to the Supreme Court a Diversity of Experience Missing Since Justice O’Connor Retired.” “With this nomination, Elena Kagan follows in the footsteps of her mentor, Thurgood Marshall, who also was nominated to the Supreme Court from the position of Solicitor General.  Ms. Kagan broke the glass ceiling when she was appointed as the first woman to serve as Solicitor General and also previously when she became the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School.  Her historic accomplishments and the way she has conducted herself in these positions has earned her a place at the top of the legal profession. Elena Kagan’s nomination will bring to the Supreme Court a diversity of experience missing since Justice O’Connor retired in 2006.  I have urged President Obama to look outside the judicial monastery to identify qualified nominees who will bring a diversity of life experience to the Court.  Elena Kagan is just such a nominee.” [Statement by Sen. Patrick Leahy, 5/10/10]

Sen. Harry Reid: Kagan “A Worthy Nominee to Replace Justice Stevens” Who “Will Demonstrate Her Primary Allegiance Is to Fairness, Justice and the Rule of Law, Not Ideology.” “President Obama has chosen a worthy nominee to replace Justice Stevens, a jurist who Americans have respected and admired for so many years. I am particularly pleased President Obama has chosen a nominee from outside the judicial monastery. I believe that through her confirmation process, Elena Kagan will demonstrate that her primary allegiance is to fairness, justice and the rule of law, not ideology.  When Solicitor General Kagan is confirmed, the Supreme Court will have three sitting female Justices for the first time – a historic occurrence that is long overdue. Nevadans and all Americans want us to confirm a nominee who is not only immensely qualified, but also has an understanding of the real world impact the Court’s rulings will have on the American people. They want a nominee who will stand up for average Americans and ensure they get a fair hearing even against the largest and wealthiest corporations. I am confident that once confirmed, Elena Kagan will work to ensure equal justice for all Americans.” [Statement by Sen. Harry Reid, 5/10/10]

Sen. Charles Schumer: “Elena Kagan Is the Kind of Moderate, Experience Legal Leader Who Can and Should Receive Bipartisan Support in the Senate. The Fact That She Has So Much Practical Experience, on a Court Where It Is Missing, Should Be Considered an Asset.” “Elena Kagan is the kind of moderate, experienced legal leader who can and should receive bipartisan support in the Senate. The fact that she has so much practical experience, on a Court where it is missing, should be considered an asset. She has a long record as a consensus builder, and is the kind of person who can bridge the 5-4 splits that have become so routine on this Court. There is no reason why her confirmation should not be completed before the August recess.” [New York Daily News, 5/10/10]

Sen. Dick Durbin: Kagan “Is a Remarkable Lawyer” Who “Has Also Blazed a Trail for Women in America.” “I applaud President Obama’s decision to nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Ms. Kagan is a remarkable lawyer who has worked in private practice, clerked for Illinois’ own Judge Abner Mikva and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, served as a Senate staff member and worked in the Executive Branch.  She has also blazed a trail for women in America -­ not only as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School but also as the first woman to serve as our nation’s Solicitor General. President Obama said he wanted someone on the high court who understood the impact of the law on average Americans, and I believe the depth and breadth of Ms. Kagan’s will allow her that perspective.” [Statement by Sen. Dick Durbin, 5/10/10]

Sen. John Kerry: “Elena Kagan Has Been an Extraordinary Trailblazer and She Will Be an Extraordinary Supreme Court Justice.” “Elena Kagan has been an extraordinary trailblazer and she will be an extraordinary Supreme Court Justice for a very long time. She brings together a remarkable combination of qualities that the Court needs today: a capable mind, a fresh energy, a proven ability to build consensus across ideological lines, and a real-world understanding of how the law and public policy impacts Americans in their daily lives,’ said Sen. Kerry.  ‘The first woman to head Harvard Law School and the first woman to serve as Solicitor General, when she is confirmed by the Senate, for the first time the Supreme Court will look a little more like America with three women serving together on the bench. Massachusetts has been Elena’s adopted home, and a place where she earned the respect of jurists and scholars from across the ideological spectrum.” [Statement by Sen. John Kerry, 5/10/10]

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Kagan is “Very Well Respected, Extremely Intelligent,” Has “That Kind of Independent Thinking and Consensus-Building Will Serve Her Well on the Court If She Is Confirmed…She Has the Reputation of Being Fair and Open-Minded, She’s Also a Tough and Smart Woman, and I Think She Is a Good Choice for a Nominee.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “She’s very well respected, extremely intelligent, and I got a lot of positive words when we had our committee hearing over her confirmation from a number of the Republican senators and ultimately, as you know, got a number of Republicans voting for her on the floor, and I think part of it is the reputation she developed when she was dean of Harvard Law School, the first woman dean. She was someone that was fair, brought three conservative law professors, including Professor Goldsmith, they were all very controversial at the time but she felt it was important to bring different points of view to Harvard Law School and that kind of independent thinking and consensus-building will serve her well on the court if she is confirmed…So she has the reputation of being fair and open-minded, she’s also a tough and smart woman, and I think she is a good choice for a nominee.” [Fox News Channel, 5/10/10]

Sen. Klobuchar: Kagan “Is Extremely Intelligent, And She Would Bring a Wide Variety of Legal Experience to the Bench…Over the Years, She Has Developed a Reputation as a Person Who Brings People Together Despite Their Ideological Differences.” “Solicitor General Kagan is extremely intelligent, and she would bring a wide variety of legal experience to the bench – she’s spent time in government, in private practice, as a professor, and as the first woman dean of her law school.  Over the years, she has developed a reputation as a person who brings people together despite their ideological differences. She has shown herself to be a true leader. Like former Chief Justice Rehnquist, she comes to the court with experiences different than those of a judge.  I think it is healthy for the Court to have at least one Justice from outside of what has been termed the ‘judicial monastery.’” [Statement by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, 5/10/10]

Sen. Benjamin Cardin: As Solicitor General, Kagan “Would Bring a Unique, Firsthand Perspective to the Court, Along With a Lifetime of Broad Legal Experience.” “I welcome President Obama’s announcement today that he intends to nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court. As Solicitor General, a position often called the tenth justice, she would bring a unique, firsthand perspective to the court, along with a lifetime of broad legal experience.” [Statement by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, 5/10/10]

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: Kagan Has A “Strong Track Record As One Of The Nation’s Top Legal Scholars, And As A Leader With A Special Skill For Bringing People Together.” “Solicitor General Elena Kagan has a strong track record as one of the nation’s top legal scholars, and as a leader with a special skill for bringing people together.  I look forward to learning more about her judicial philosophy through the Senate Judiciary Committee’s open hearing process, which I believe is an important opportunity for the public to hear directly from the nominee and shape their own views about her judicial expertise and temperament.”  [Statement by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 5/10/10]

Legal Community & Experts

Prof. Jack Goldsmith, Head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel Under Pres. George W. Bush: “Elena Kagan Will Make an Outstanding Supreme Court Justice.” “Elena Kagan will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. Kagan has had an extraordinary legal career. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, she clerked for Thurgood Marshall at the Supreme Court; practiced law at the superb Williams & Connolly firm; did legal and policy work in the White House; taught administrative law, labor law, and civil procedure, and was a First Amendment expert, at Chicago and Harvard law schools; was Harvard’s dean; and served as Solicitor General. Kagan excelled in all of these roles and has emerged from them deeply knowledgeable about the issues that come before the Supreme Court. Kagan also has the intellectual and temperamental qualities to make a great justice. She is very smart. She is a careful lawyer. She sees legal problems in the round and thinks about them clearly and honestly. And as her transformative deanship illustrates, she has an amazing capacity to bridge disagreement. She does this by listening to all sides, engaging colleagues frankly and empathetically, patiently seeking consensus and exercising judgment openly and with good reasons. These qualities will serve the nation well on a court that adjudicates our most contentious and divisive legal issues.” [WashingtonPost.com, 5/10/01]

Brad Berenson, Associate Counsel to Pres. George W. Bush: “Elena is Universally Well-Liked and Trusted by Lawyers on Both the Right and Left of the Political Spectrum. Her Congeniality, Flexibility and Moderate Demeanor Would Serve Her Well on the Supreme Court, Where She Would Have Uncommon Potential to Build Coalitions and Consensus With Her Judicial Colleagues.” “‘Elena is universally well-liked and trusted by lawyers on both the right and left of the political spectrum,’ said Bradford Bereson, former associate counsel in the George W. Bush White House. ‘Her congeniality, flexibility, and moderate demeanor would serve her well on the Supreme Court, where she would have uncommon potential to build coalitions and consensus with her judicial colleagues, at least over time. She could turn out to be a genuinely influential justice.’” [ABCNews.com, 5/9/10]

Walter Dellinger, Assistant Attorney General and Head of the Office of Legal Counsel Under Pres. Clinton: Kagan “Will Be Influential. Her Intellectual Style Is Tough But Fair…She Appreciates the Difference Between Being an Advocate and Being a Judge.” Elena Kagan is, first and foremost, a really good listener, one who can appreciate the arguments for positions with which she does not initially agree. Those who engage with Elena come away with a sense that she has worked hard to understand what they believe and why. She will be influential. Her intellectual style is tough but fair. As solicitor general, she has stood her ground in response to questions from the bench, and the same easy comfort she exhibited as an advocate will serve her well when she engages in dialogue with the justices as their newest colleague. Thoughtful conservatives are drawn to her not for her policy views but because of the qualities she brings to discourse and decision. Having been one of the most successful law school deans of the past quarter century and having presided over the solicitor general’s office, she appreciates the values of pragmatism. And having served in the White House and Congress, she understands the necessities of workable government. Although her progressive values have led her to serve in both policy and legal positions in the past two Democratic administrations, she appreciates the difference between being an advocate and being a judge.”

Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the School of Law at the University of California at Irvine: “Kagan is Impeccably Qualified.” “Kagan is impeccably qualified.” [WashingtonPost.com, 5/10/10]

Harvard Prof. Robert H. Mnookin: Kagan “Is an Extraordinarily Gifted and Brilliant Woman Who Is a Great Lawyer and a Very Effective Leader.” “Elena is an extraordinary and gifted and brilliant woman who is a great lawyer and very effective leader. At the Harvard Law School while she was dean, she focused on two principle activities. First: improving the educational experience for the students. Harvard Law School is a big place and she did lots to make it a much more agreeable institution than it had been in the past. And second, she worked to substantially expand the faculty, and in doing so, I served with her on the appointments committee for a number of years. She had a taste that ranged from those who were quite judicially conservative to those who were liberal. She in fact was interested most of all in the quality of people’s minds and how they would operate as a teacher.” [Fox News Channel, 5/10/10]

Prof. Laurence Tribe: Kagan “Has an Excellent Chance and She Would Be Terrific. She Has a Masterful Command of So Many Areas of the Law.” “She has an excellent chance, and she would be terrific,” Harvard law professor Laurence H. Tribe said. “She has a masterful command of so many areas of law.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/10/10]

Benjamin Wittes, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution: Kagan “Warrants Confirmation in a Matter of Hours…She Is Obviously Smart, Capable and Well-Qualified, and Her Views Obviously Fall Within the Diverse Streams of Thought That Make Up the Bread and Butter of the American Approach to the Rule of Law.” “Elena Kagan, like the three sitting members of the Supreme Court whose nominations immediately preceded her, warrants confirmation in a matter of hours. Like John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor, she is obviously smart, capable, and well-qualified, and her views obviously fall within the diverse streams of thought that make up the bread and butter of the American approach to the rule of law. The Senate and the public know everything they need to know to vote on her confirmation today.” [WashingtonPost.com, 5/10/10]

John Podesta, Head of the Center for American Progress: Kagan “Is a First-Rate Intellect, a Passionate Legal Scholar and a Dedicated Public Servant – and She Is Both Well-Prepared and Well-Suited to Serve on the Nation’s Highest Court.” “As a friend and colleague of Elena Kagan for more than 20 years, I applaud her nomination to the Supreme Court. General Kagan is a first-rate intellect, a passionate legal scholar and a dedicated public servant—and she is both well-prepared and well-suited to serve on the nation’s highest Court. As my colleague in the White House, Elena Kagan worked tirelessly to expand opportunity for all Americans willing to work hard and play by the rules. She understands that the law imposes obligations on all Americans, and she will have no patience for well-heeled interest groups who believe that their wealth and influence should grant them immunity from the law.” [Time.com, 5/10/10]

Former Judge Abner Mikva Called Kagan “One Of The Best Clerks I Ever Had.” MIKVA: “Well, Harvard always attracts some of the best and brightest law talents in the country.  And it was hardly a year, even though I’m a Chicago man myself, that I didn’t have a Harvard clerk. She had been the executive editor of the Harvard Law Review, the number two spot, and her credentials were just incredible. She was one of the brightest kids in the class.  The professors I talked to said she’s smart, hard working. She understands what the law’s about and they were right.  She was one of the best clerks I ever had.” [MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell Reports, 5/10/10]

Mikva Said Kagan’s Non-Judicial Background Was “A Real Plus,” Citing Past Supreme Court Judges From Outside The Court And Appeals Court Judges Who Struggled With “Narrow” Viewpoints. MITCHELL: “But since 1972 someone has been nominated who was not a judge first. Do you think that is a real gap in her resume?” MIKVA: “No, I think it’s a real plus. When you look back at some of the great justices who had not been judges before…Justice Hugo Black, Arthur Goldberg…You mentioned Chief Justice Rehnquist. Justice Powell. These are people who have not been judges and they brought an important viewpoint to the United States Supreme Court that unfortunately is missing when you have nine judges.  Nine appeals court judges, which is what we’ve had up to now.  The problem with being an appeals court judge and I was one, your viewpoints tend to be   narrow. Your input tends to be narrow.  You talk to other judges and you talk to lawyers and that’s a very small piece of the body populate.” [MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell Reports, 5/10/10]

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President Obama Nominates Elena Kagan for Supreme Court

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Jessie Lee

Her Passion for the Law is Anything But Academic

President Obama is joined by Vice President Joe Biden while introducing Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his choice to be the nations 112th Supreme Court justice during an event in the East Room of the White House May 10, 2010 in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the former Harvard Law School dean would be the first justice to join the high court without prior judicial experience since William Rehnquist in 1972. Kagan was selected by Obama to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. (Photos by Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)

In noting that Solicitor General Elena Kagan would have legendary shoes to fill at the Supreme Court when confirmed, the President described the career of Justice John Paul Stevens:

For nearly 35 years, Justice Stevens has stood as an impartial guardian of the law, faithfully applying the core values of our founding to the cases and controversies of our time.

He has done so with restraint and respect for precedent — understanding that a judge’s job is to interpret, not make law  — but also with fidelity to the constitutional ideal of equal justice for all.  He’s brought to each case not just mastery of the letter of the law, but a keen understanding of its impact on people’s lives.

He followed by describing Kagan’s career upholding many of the same values while blazing a path as one of the most respected legal minds in America:

Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds.  She’s an acclaimed legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law.  She is a former White House aide with a lifelong commitment to public service and a firm grasp of the nexus and boundaries between our three branches of government.  She is a trailblazing leader — the first woman to serve as Dean of Harvard Law School — and one of the most successful and beloved deans in its history.  And she is a superb Solicitor General, our nation’s chief lawyer representing the American people’s interests before the Supreme Court, the first woman in that position as well.  And she has won accolades from observers across the ideological spectrum for her well-reasoned arguments and commanding presence.

But Elena is respected and admired not just for her intellect and record of achievement, but also for her temperament — her openness to a broad array of viewpoints; her habit, to borrow a phrase from Justice Stevens, “of understanding before disagreeing”; her fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder.

These traits were particularly evident during her tenure as dean.  At a time when many believed that the Harvard faculty had gotten a little one-sided in its viewpoint, she sought to recruit prominent conservative scholars and spur a healthy debate on campus.  And she encouraged students from all backgrounds to respectfully exchange ideas and seek common ground — because she believes, as I do, that exposure to a broad array of perspectives is the foundation not just for a sound legal education, but of a successful life in the law.

This appreciation for diverse views may also come in handy as a die-hard Mets fan serving alongside her new colleague-to-be, Yankees fan Justice Sotomayor, who I believe has ordered a pinstriped robe for the occasion.  (Laughter.)

But while Elena had a brilliant career in academia, her passion for the law is anything but academic.  She has often referred to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked, as her hero.  I understand that he reciprocated by calling her “Shorty.”  (Laughter.)  Nonetheless, she credits him with reminding her that, as she put it, “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…”

That understanding of law, not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people, has animated every step of Elena’s career — including her service as Solicitor General today.

During her time in this office, she’s repeatedly defended the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations.  Last year, in the Citizens United case, she defended bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections.  Despite long odds of success, with most legal analysts believing the government was unlikely to prevail in this case, Elena still chose it as her very first case to argue before the Court.

I think that says a great deal not just about Elena’s tenacity, but about her commitment to serving the American people.  I think it says a great deal about her commitment to protect our fundamental rights, because in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

Vice President Joe Biden...This is a big f-ing deal!

For her part, Kagan expressed a profound sense of patriotism in her experience as Solicitor General:

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.  And to represent the United States there is the most thrilling and the most humbling task a lawyer can perform.

She spoke about “the joy of teaching” she felt at Harvard Law, and the experiences she has learned from throughout her career.  She closed on a personal note:

I’m thankful to my brothers and other family and friends for coming to Washington to be with me here today.  And much more, I am thankful for all of their support and loyalty and love, not just on this day but always.

If this day has just a touch of sadness in it for me, it is because my parents aren’t here to share it.  They were both, as the President said, the children of immigrants and the first in their families to go to college.  My father was the kind of lawyer who used his skills and training to represent everyday people and to improve a community.  My mother was a proud public schoolteacher, as are my two brothers — the kind of teachers whom students remember for the rest of their lives.

My parents’ lives and their memory remind me every day of the impact public service can have, and I pray every day that I live up to the example they set.

Mr. President, I look forward to working with the Senate in the next stage of this process.  And I thank you again, Mr. President, for this honor of a lifetime.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

Read the full remarks

One of the Nation’s Leading Legal Minds: The President Nominates Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court

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Timeline

  • 1960 – Born April 28 at New York City, New York, United States.
  • 1981 – Elena earns Bachelors Degree from Princeton University, summa cum laude.
  • 1983 – Elena earns a Masters of Philosophy degree from Worcester College, Oxford University.
  • 1986 – Receives a Juris Doctor professional degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.
  • 1988 – Serves as clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • 1995 – Begins service to President Bill Clinton as Associate White House Counsel and Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy.
  • 1999 – Nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
  • 2003 – Appointed first female dean of Harvard Law School.
  • 2005 – Begins service as a member of the Research Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute.
  • 2009 – Becomes the first woman to hold the position of Solicitor General of the U.S.
  • 2010 – Nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Filed under Change, Law, Pres. Barack Obama, Supreme Court, Uncategorized, Vice-President Joe Biden

Matters of Principle by Gary Hart

Posted by: Betsm

Op-ed by Gary Hart

Gary HartThomas Jefferson said that to expect a man [today he would say person] to hold the same views throughout life, while life changed all around him, was like expecting a man to attempt to wear the same clothes he wore as a boy.

That observation came to mind in reading one commentary on the judicial life of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. It was observed that he was not asked one question about his views on abortion during his confirmation hearings and that as a Republican nominee he was unanimously confirmed by a Democratic Senate (of which I was a member). During his lengthy service on the Court he changed his views on a number of key issues, not least on the death penalty.
This is obviously surprising, if not stunning, in two regards: the Court has become an ideological tug-of-war principally in the past three decades, and politics has become inhabited by people who cannot or will not change their minds on virtually anything as life changes around them.

This has to do in part with the theme of this blog: principles should not be changed, but what Jefferson called “style” can be. Certainly for some people, on both sides, matters such as abortion, the death penalty, and related social issues are matters of principle. But, in the case of the death penalty, Justice Stevens view on the matter changed because he came to see how poorly and unjustly it was being administered. The lesson has to do with the gap between principle and practice: in an ideal world, only mad-dog killers are executed; in practice, in the real world of fallible (or ideologically motivated) human beings, too many innocent people are executed. Experiencing this difference can cause thoughtful people to change their views, while still holding onto principle.

Like most of the ruminations on this blogsite, this is a matter for lengthy discussions well into the night. What some might draw from it, however, is to hope for judges and policy-makers who are open to changing circumstances, mind-changing experiences, the evolution of human events, new evidence and information, and a temperment that is willing to question old assumptions.

Many, but certainly not all, of the large figures I was honored to serve with in the 1970s, when a Supreme Court justice could be unanimously confirmed and before the ideological wars began in America, were people perfectly capable of learning, thinking, adapting to new evidence, and, in a word, growing. Thereafter, things began to change.

Our nation will not resume its mainstream course forward until we learn to put leaders who are capable of learning on the job, and who possess a judicial temperment, back on the judicial bench and in the Congress.

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Filed under Change, Politics, Pres. Barack Obama, Supreme Court, Uncategorized

Obama Gets 2nd Supreme Court Nomination, Stevens Retiring

cross-posted from T-Time

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens retiring

WASHINGTON (AP) – Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, is retiring. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill. Stevens said Friday he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July. He said he hopes his successor is confirmed “well in advance of the commencement of the court’s next term.”

Stevens’ announcement leaves ample time for the White House to settle on a successor and for Senate Democrats, who control a 59-vote majority, to hold confirmation hearings and a vote before the court’s next term begins in October. Republicans have not ruled out attempts to delay confirmation.

Stevens’ announcement, which came 11 days before his 90th birthday, had been hinted at for months. It’s presumed Obama will nominate another liberal, so Stevens’ departure wouldn’t alter the court’s philosophical makeup.

Obama promises quick court replacement for Stevens

AP Photo

WASHINGTON (AP) – The retirement of John Paul Stevens, the Supreme Court’s leading liberal but a justice who also could find conservative allies, will set off an election-year political battle over President Barack Obama’s second high court pick. Stevens said Friday he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July. He said he hopes his successor will be confirmed “well in advance of the commencement of the court’s next term.” Obama hailed Stevens as an “impartial guardian of the law” and promised to move quickly to nominate a replacement.

more:  Potential Supreme Court Nominees: White House Prepared for Stevens Retirement

Biography of:  Justice John Paul Stevens

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Georgia Attorney General Faces Impeachment Threat

Posted by: Bluedog89

Georgia Attorney General refuses to sign a multi-state lawsuit blocking the new health care bill. Now Georgia lawmakers are calling for his impeachment. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

HP~Georgia lawmakers reacted to Wednesday’s news that their Attorney General, Democrat Thurbert Baker, would not sign on to a multi-state lawsuit to block the health care bill in his state by filing papers to have him impeached.

The blog Peach Pundit reports that the resolution to impeach Baker, also a candidate for Georgia governor, now has at least 30 signatures and is still going forward.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, petitioned Baker to sign on to the joint lawsuit filed by more than a dozen attorneys general across the country earlier this week that seeks to shield states from the effects of the new health bill, including the so-called “individual mandate,” which forces most people to buy insurance.

“I cannot justify a decision to initiate expensive and time-consuming litigation that I believe has no legal merit,” Baker wrote in a two-page response to Gov. Perdue. “In short, this litigation is likely to fail and will consume significant amounts of taxpayers’ hard-earned money in the process.”

On Thursday Gov. Perdue said he would appoint a “special attorney general” to sign on to the lawsuit challenging the health care bill since Baker would not do it himself, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Perdue made the announcement a day after state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat running for governor, told Perdue, a Republican, he would not pursue a lawsuit.

Though the impeachment process appears to be in motion, some see it as a futile distraction that will not succeed because the threshold for impeachment is so high. It requires a vote of one-half of the State House and two-thirds of the State Senate.

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States To Sue Over Health Care Bill

Posted by: Bluedog89

CNN~Several states plan to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health care reform bill, Florida’s attorney general announced this week.

Bill McCollum, the Republican attorney general up for reelection under fellow Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, told a news conference that the lawsuit would be filed once President Obama signs the health care bill into law. He said he’ll be joined by his counterparts in Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

All of the attorneys general in the states mentioned by McCollum are Republican, but McCollum said the lawsuit would be about the law and not politics.

On Monday, Virginia’s Republican attorney general said his state would file a lawsuit challenging the health care bill. It was unclear if Virginia would join the other states or proceed on its own.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill on Sunday night, and President Obama signed it into law on Tuesday.

McCollum said the lawsuit would challenge the bill’s provision requiring people to purchase health insurance, along with provisions that will force state government to spend more on health care services.

“This is a tax or a penalty on just living, and that’s unconstitutional,” he said of the mandate to purchase health coverage. “There’s no provision in the Constitution of the United States giving Congress the power to do that.”

McCollum also said that portions of the bill would force states to spend money they don’t have, which he called a violation of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.*

“There’s no way we can do what’s required in this bill and still provide for education, for foster care, for the incarceration of prisoners, all the other things that are in this bill,” he said.

McCollum said he expected the lawsuit to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Later Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration expected to win any lawsuits filed against the health care bill.

*The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, restates the Constitution’s principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the national government nor prohibited to the states by the constitution of the United States are reserved to the states or the people. However, there are clauses in which the federal government have intervened on behalf of the states.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Takes Mentee’s to Visit Supreme Court Justices

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama listens as Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor talk with a group of young women, during a mentoring event at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

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Justice’s Wife Launches Tea Party Group

Posted by: Bluedog89

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with wife Virginia.

Story by Kathleen Hennessey of the Los Angeles Times

As Virginia Thomas tells it in her soft-spoken, Midwestern cadence, the story of her involvement in the “tea party” movement is the tale of an average citizen in action.

“I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Neb., who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you,” she said at a recent panel discussion with tea party leaders in Washington. Thomas went on to count herself among those energized into action by President Obama’s “hard-left agenda.”

But Thomas is no ordinary activist.

She is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she has launched a tea-party-linked group that could test the traditional notions of political impartiality for the court.

In January, Virginia Thomas created Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group whose website will organize activism around a set of conservative “core principles,” she said.

The group plans to issue score cards for Congress members and be involved in the November election, although Thomas would not specify how. She said it would accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court.

Read the entire story at the Los Angeles Times.

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The Death of U.S. Political Democracy For The People

Posted by: LibbyShaw

Will the Senator from Wal-Mart please yield to the Senator from Halliburton? The Congressman from Black Water has 5 minutes remaining before the Congresswoman from United Health may speak.

Mark your calendars, folks. January 21, 2010 is the day the radical and activist Supreme Court of the United States delivered the U.S. Democracy into the hands of the corporate sector and special interests groups. According to an article in the New York Times corporations, lobbyists and unions can now legally purchase their candidates of choice.

“We have got a million we can spend advertising for you or against you – whichever one you want,’ ” a lobbyist can tell lawmakers, said Lawrence M. Noble, a lawyer at Skadden Arps in Washington and former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission.

The decision yesterday will usher in unimaginable numbers of Swift Boat attack ads. Corporate fat cats can now threaten and bully politicians to do their bidding or else.

“It will put on steroids the trend that outside groups are increasingly dominating campaigns,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “Candidates lose control of their message. Some of these guys lose control of their whole personalities.”

“Parties will sort of shrink in the relative importance of things,” he added, “and outside groups will take over more of the functions – advertising support, get out the vote – that parties do now.”

Front row: Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Antonin G. Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. Back row: Associate Justices Samuel A. Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Some have called the SOTUS decision a power grab that is intellectually dishonest.

In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

Many of those commenting on the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission have focused on the power-grab part. I agree with them. It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts had not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process.

“If it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more,” a wise judge once wrote. That was Chief Justice John G. Roberts — back when — and dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens rightly turned that line against him.

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Republicans naturally and predictably love this recent ruling. But of course they would. Republicans embrace and fully support authoritarian forms of government. And the sad truth of the matter is the GOP has always worked for the corporate sector.

It is devastatingly unfortunate that Republican voters have never been able to understand the hard, cold and mean reality of those they elect into office. Politicians take an oath to serve the people in their districts but many merely give their constituents nothing but empty rhetoric. If one were to closely examine one’s Republican lawmakers’ voting records one would find who their elected officials really work for.

My guess is the teabaggers will wraps it head around the reality of the SCOTUS decision like we progressives have, for the only one imperative we do share in common is a collective outrage over the corporate takeover of the U.S. government and its legislative process by special interest groups and corporations.

But unfortunately teabaggers, unlike progressives, are far too easily led astray by the likes of Dick Armey, one of the numerous behind the scenes leaders of the teabagger movement. Armey’s main mission is to promote the interests of the health care industry. He and his organization, Freedom Works, uses teabaggers as its tools.

Republicans and teabaggers alike have been led to believe that the government is the root of everything evil while progressives know that government is the only force that can and will protect us from the evils of self-serving greed mongers of the corporate sector.

We are where we are today b/c the corporate sector has been enabled to run rough shod over the American people. We are broke. There are no jobs. We lost homes. We lost retirement savings. Meanwhile on Wall St. the fat cats who can now purchase politicians get richer by the minute.

Elections have consequences. The nice guy or girl candidate with whom to have a beer could very well be an anti-political democracy devil in disguise who has every intention of throwing the middle and working classes to the lions.

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Oh, and Prince Alwaleed, grandson of the King of Saudi Arabia and the largest individual shareholder in Citigroup and second biggest shareholder in News Corp (Murdock’s FOX “News”) doesn’t like Obama’s tax on the banks.

Who would have thought?

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