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Friday, May 21, 2010

Our Next Supreme Court Justice?

AFJ President Nan Aron spoke as a panelist today at CAPITOL HILL ISSUES BRIEFING: Our Next Supreme Court Justice? with fellow panelists Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSBlog, and Robert Alt, Senior Legal Fellow and Deputy Director for the Heritage Foundation's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Politico Congressional Bureau Chief Martin Kady joined the panel as moderator.

An audience of dozens welcomed the panel to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to discuss Solicitor General Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. Since the announcement of President Obama's nomination, none have doubted Kagan's qualifications. Before becoming the first female Solicitor General, Kagan served as the first female dean of Harvard Law.

Kicking off the panel, Aron reviewed the image of Ms. Kagan as portrayed by the press: a moderate choice between other liberal front runners Diane Wood and Syd Thomas, and center-right moderate Merrick Garland. Elena Kagan's lack of a judicial record, Aron suggested, leaves a lot to be discovered about her views from the upcoming release of documents from Kagan's service in the Clinton White House. Robert Alt added that Kagan's lack of a record made her a safe pick, one that President Obama chose for youth rather than experience. Citing Kagan's own criticism of the confirmation process, Alt stressed the importance of an unrushed, deliberate process in Kagan's nomination. Goldstein stressed the politics of the decision. With 59 democrats in the Senate, Goldstein said, there was little chance of a failure to confirm even a known liberal nominee. Instead of trying to shift the ideology of the Court, Goldstein believes the President chose a nominee whose smooth confirmation wouldn't distract from financial and economic reform.

Nan Aron closed the panel by saying that she expected a strong hearing performance from Elena Kagan, already weathered from her confirmation to be Solicitor General. While Kagan's qualifications are the focus of the hearings, Aron suggested that they should also serve as a platform to remind citizens of the importance of quickly confirming fair, impartial, open-minded judges to balance the conservative activists appointed during the Bush administration.

Alliance for Justice thanks event sponsors the National Press Foundation, the Center on Congress at Indiana University, and Politico for their invitation to participate. For a look at Solicitor General Kagan's background, read our report, and our snapshot of women in the judiciary. To stay up on developments in the confirmation, check back frequently at our Supreme Court Watch.