Kagan quotes on Senate confirmation process

By The Associated Press
June 3, 2010

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Excerpts from Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's review of Stephen Carter's book "A Confirmation Mess," in which she talks about the Senate's Supreme Court confirmation process:

-- "It is an embarrassment that the president and Senate do not always insist, as a threshold requirement, that a nominee's previous accomplishments evidence an ability not merely to handle but to master the 'craft' aspects of being a judge."

-- "But we do not have to proceed nearly so far down the road of silence as Carter and recent nominees would take us -- to a place where comment of any kind on any issue that might bear in any way on any case that might at any time come before the Court is thought inappropriate. There is a difference between a prohibition on making a commitment (whether explicit or implicit) and a prohibition on stating a current view as to a disputed legal question."

-- "Open exploration of the nominee's substantive views ... enables senators and their constituents to engage in a focused discussion of constitutional values, to ascertain the values held by the nominee and to evaluate whether the nominee possesses the values that the Supreme Court most urgently requires. These are the issues of greatest consequence surrounding any Supreme Court nomination (not the objective qualifications or personal morality of the nominee)."

-- "Judges are not partial in deciding cases because they have strong opinions, or previously have expressed strong opinions, on issues involved in those cases. ... We do not yet, thankfully enough, consider either the possession or the expression of views on legal issues -- even when strongly held and stated -- to be a judicial disqualification."

-- "The Bork hearings presented to the public a serious discussion of the meaning of the Constitution, the role of the Court, and the views of the nominee; that discussion at once educated the public and allowed it to determine whether the nominee would move the Court in the proper direction. Subsequent hearings have presented to the public a vapid and hollow charade."

--"And what is worse even than the hearings themselves is a necessary condition of them: the evident belief of many senators that serious substantive inquiry of nominees is usually not only inessential, but illegitimate. ... This belief is not so often or so clearly stated; but it underlies all that the Judiciary Committee now does with respect to Supreme Court nominations."

--"What has happened is that the Senate has ... let slip the fundamental lesson of the Bork hearings: the essential rightness -- the legitimacy and the desirability -- of exploring a Supreme Court nominee's set of constitutional views and commitments."