Today I had the pleasure and honour of sitting in on the Elena Kagan hearings for a brief period of time. As you all may know, Elena Kagan, the Solicitor General of the United States--person appointed to represent the United States Government before the Supreme Court--is currently going through the process of confirmation to become the next justice of the most high and honourable United States Supreme Court. Kagan is replacing Justice John Paul Stevens (at least she seems poised to by the way the hearings are looking), who is retiring when the court begins its summer recess.
I was at the hearing for the questionings by Senator Sessions (R-AL), Senator Kohl (D-WI) and Senator Hatch (R-UT). Senator Sessions was extremely rude and, in my opinion, attempted to undermine Solicitor General Kagan many times. At one point he rudely asked her to "put on her legal hat for just a second." Other times he cut her off abruptly and often seemed like he was prepared to yell at her or belittle her. What stuck out to me was his unwillingness to accept the answers that she was giving him. For example, he questioned Kagan about whether she would characterise herself as a "legal progressive". She continually answered his question by saying that she did not know what a "legal progressive" was, but felt that people should label themselves and could not truthfully answer the question. Sessions went on to say that he was going to label her as a "legal progressive" based on what he knew about her and promptly moved on to his next question. He also said that he wouldn't ask her any softball questions. Because remember, since Elena Kagan has not answered questions about her sexual orientation (after a Harvard Law colleague said she was gay) and was photographed playing softball, she MUST be a lesbian--according to many of her critics, anyway. Lastly, Sessions questioned Kagan on Harvard's military recruitment policy--which has been hotly debated since she feels that "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT), the military's stance on LGBT people serving, is discriminatory. She spoke of Harvard having a non-discriminatory policy in place for any companies seeking to recruit students out of its Career Services office, and could not allow the military to do so because of its discriminatory stance towards gays and lesbians (let's not forget all of the other bi, trans, etc people) serving in the military. You can imagine that Sessions just had a field day with that one.
Senator Kohl (D-WI) asked more polite questions; he actually questioned Kagan before Sessions did (sorry the questioning is out of order), but I'll briefly discuss what he questioned her on. Kohl mainly questioned Kagan about the nations anti-trust laws, particularly the Supreme Court's decision that ultimately overturned the century-old Sherman Antitrust Act. He asked Kagan whether she felt it appropriate that the Supreme Court overturned this law, to which she answered that the decision raised questions of what it takes to reverse precedent. He then asked her about her feelings on having cameras in the Supreme Court since some Justices are opposed to it. She replied, "I have said that I think it will be a terrific thing...it's an inspiring sight...I think it would be a great thing for the institution and the American people." In addition, Kohl questioned her on the Bush v. Gore decision and whether she believed it was right for the Supreme Court to get involved.
Senator Hatch (R-UT) questioned Kagan on whether the nation's Founders' were concerned with the First Amendment and issues of free speech, specifically political speech. Kagan stated that "political speech is at the core of the First Amendment." When asked if she rejected the fact that spending was indeed speech (due to some talking points she had written for the Clinton Administration in which she had claimed so), Kagan replied "...Those were talking points for the Clinton Administration...it does not reflect my constitutional or legal views." What mainly dominated Hatch's questions from that point was the Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. FEC (Federal Election Commission)--Kagan spoke before the Supreme Court as Solicitor General. He then questioned Kagan on issues of independent, campaign and corporate expenditures.
Random fact: I spent extra time in the hearing because I told the staff that my concentration in political science is on the Supreme Court (because I am that person) and that I am the next Supreme Court Justice of this generation--which is a goal; the staff allowed me to stay for a longer period of time. Also, I had a very interesting conversation with an intern from the Concerned Women for America--if you don't know who they are, please go google them right this second. Enough said.
Kagan's appointment is a historic one because she will make the nation's fourth female Justice to sit on the bench, the third female Justice currently sitting on the bench, and will also be President Barack Obama's second appointment to the Supreme Court--this is something that many Presidents never have the honour of doing.
I found Kagan to be extremely witty and personable and she is appearing to take these hearings with grace and in stride. Let's all keep watching! As far as I'm concerned, she is going to get confirmed and will make history as a Supreme Court Justice.
If you want to learn more about Elena Kagan, check out WhoRunsGov, here.