Elena Kagan Is Confirmed as Supreme Court Justice

The U.S. Senate voted 63 – 37 to approve the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee had earlier approved her nomination. Kagan leaves the post of solicitor general for the Obama administration. Kagan’s confirmation hearings were fairly uneventful, though some senators expressed frustration that the nominee was so guarded in giving answers about issues that might come before the Court that they learned little about her judicial philosophy.

After the vote, President Obama commended Kagan as “fair and impartial,” someone who understands the law “not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people.” Democratic senators called her a strong legal thinker. She is not, however, expected to affect the Court’s “ideological balance.” Justice John Paul Stevens, whose retirement opened up a place on the Court, was a staunch liberal. Only one Republican joined the committee’s Democratic majority in approving the nomination. Kagan’s critics point to her judicial inexperience and warn her liberal political views are likely to color her legal judgments.

If Elena Kagan, a Conservative Jew, is confirmed, she would join two other women justices. The Supreme Court for the first time would not include a Protestant Christian, but would be two-thirds Catholic and one-third Jewish. It is an open question, of course, whether, or to what extent, the religious beliefs of justices matter to their understanding of the law—or should matter. Also, should Kagan be added to the Court, it would be an all – Ivy League bench: every sitting justice will have attended either Harvard or Yale law schools.

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