Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My thoughts on Obama's nominee

Yesterday it was announced that President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace Associate Justice John Paul Stevens' spot on the Supreme Court when he retires after this term. Kagan's nomination comes as no real surprise; she was on the short list of candidates that Obama had reportedly considered and comes with strong credentials.

I had hoped DC Court of Appeals judge and judicial moderate Merrick Garland would be nominated, but Solicitor Kagan will be fine. She has strong academic credentials. She has taught at some of the top law schools in the nation. She clerked for Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. As the Dean of Harvard Law School she scored points with the conservatives by supporting conservative law professors and speaking at a forum of the Federalist Society, a group of mainly conservative and libertarian legal scholars.

There will be accusations at her confirmation hearings that she is part of the Ivory Tower elite and out of touch with reality. People will point that aside from a stint in the Clinton administration and her current position she has never practiced law. Others will point out that she lost the Citizens United case (a recent SCOTUS case which held that corporations have political speech rights) to former Solicitor General Ted Olson. A lot of conservative Senators will spout off about her positions on abortion and not vote for her. But she has not written a lot of controversial articles. There is not too much dirt on her. And ultimately, the Dems rule Congress now and she should be easily nominated.

In the end I don't think that Kagan's nomination will do much to affect the Court. She is generally a liberal who is replacing a liberal. The Court is still the Roberts-Kennedy court, run by the conservative base of the Court. Kennedy will still probably vote for the conservative sides more often then not. If Kagan were to replace a conservative or Kennedy, that would be another story.

Kagan is well-qualified for the job and in most ways is a typical liberal judge. Her track record at HLS shows that she may be more sympathetic to conservative views than some of the other members on the Court, but she will vote liberal more often than not. Because she is a liberal judge replacing another liberal judge, I don't think that her nomination will have a strong immediate effect.

No comments: