Statement of Senator Feinstein on the Nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court
Jul 13 2010
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), today offered the following statement on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court:
“I intend to vote YES on the nomination of Elena Kagan. I have every confidence that Solicitor General Kagan will be a fine Supreme Court Justice. In fact, I have hope that she may be among our very best.
Since the moment President Obama announced this nomination, it has been abundantly clear that Kagan is among our nation’s top legal minds. Solicitor General of the United States. Dean of Harvard Law School. A highly regarded scholar of administrative law. A valuable advisor in the Clinton White House. A Supreme Court clerk. All of these experiences put her in good company with the current and historic Justices of the Court.
More promising, however, is that in the weeks since her nomination, Kagan has been revealed more and more as a voice of moderation and restraint – a badly needed characteristic on today’s Supreme Court.
It is not unusual for a person or two to cross political battle lines in order to support a judicial nominee. What is unusual is the honesty and fervency with which conservatives are supporting Kagan. Michael McConnell, Miguel Estrada, Ken Starr, and Ted Olson. This is not a common list of supporters for a Democratic nominee.
Michael McConnell sent an 8-page letter to the Committee explaining exactly why he supports her. It’s a strong letter, and I encourage all of my colleagues to read it in its entirety. In sum, however, it praises Kagan for her “openness to diversity of ideas” and “lack of partisanship” and puts forth that Kagan “deserves not a grudging acquiescence but an enthusiastic confirmation as an Associate Justice.”
To date, some 170,000 pages of documents have been received by the Committee and made available to the public. The same sentiment comes across. Even in thousands of emails conveying frank commentary on some of the most heated political topics of the day, Kagan reveals herself as a moderate and a pragmatist, a lawyer with an even temperament and a dedication to careful legal reasoning.
It is true that Kagan did not answer every question posed to her during her confirmation hearings. Her responses, however, provided a depth and honesty that places her in the forefront of questions answered by past nominees. I found her to be at least as forthcoming as any other nominee during my 17 years on the Committee.
Four things in particular shone through in her responses.
First, she acknowledged that the role of the Court in our democracy is a limited one. Again and again, she reiterated that the Justices must pay deference to the reasoned judgment of Congress and administrative agencies – whether the context is environmental law, the Commerce Clause, or general statutory interpretation – the Court is the adjudicator, not the policymaking body.
Second, she understands that the role of any one Justice must be a modest one. She was honest in describing judicial interpretation as neither “robotic nor automatic” – a statement I found both honest and refreshing. But she also said that judges must pay deference to those who came before them. As she said, “no judge should look at a case and say, ‘Oh, I would have decided it differently; I'm going to decide it differently.’ [A] judge should view prior decisions with a great deal of humility and deference.”
Third, Kagan expressed a view of the courts’ relation to the American people that I think is spot on. She said the courts are special because it is their role “to make sure that even when people have no place else to go that they can come to the courts and the courts will hear their claims fairly.”
Finally, the hearings put on display for all who had not seen it Kagan’s impressive ability to reason her way through legal problems in a clear and orderly fashion. This too will serve us well as we look for law to be predictable, reliable, and steady.
In the coming years, the Supreme Court will issue decisions with lasting impact. Its rulings will determine when government action has infringed upon constitutionally protected rights of the American people, when corporations or individuals have run afoul of the law, and what the powers and limitations of the government are to take military action, protect the environment, enhance our health, promote the economy, and generally, ‘promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.’
Solicitor General Kagan has proven herself to be a well-qualified nominee for the Court. I strongly support her nomination.”
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