Elena Kagan: What They're Saying

President Obama with Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan and Vice President Biden

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden applaud as Solicitor General Elena Kagan moves to the podium after the President announced her as his choice for Supreme Court Justice during an event in the East Room of the White House, May 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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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