Supreme Court Nominations

Kagan Praises Supreme Court’s ‘Modesty,’ Hails Ties to Justice Marshall

Elena Kagan

Elena Kagan during her introductory statement.
Screen shot from Senate Judiciary Committee
live webcast.

Elena Kagan said today that if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, she would be mindful that it is a “modest” institution that must be deferential to the decisions of the American people.

“The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals,” Kagan said during her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “But the court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”

It was, as is customary at this stage of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, a modest statement that steered clear of the most specific issues raised by Republicans—such as that Kagan is a political operative or that she was hostile to military recruitment while dean of Harvard Law School.

But she didn’t hesitate to raise her clerkship with Justice Thurgood Marshall, a topic that at least two Republicans came close to raising concerns about today.

“Justice Marshall revered the court—and for a simple reason,” Kagan said. “In his life, in his great struggle for racial justice, the Supreme Court stood as the part of government that was most open to every American—and that most often fulfilled our Constitution’s promise of treating all persons with equal respect, equal care, and equal attention.”

Kagan also said she had learned to value a habit of the person she would succeed if she is confirmed, Justice John Paul Stevens, of “understanding before disagreeing.”

“I will listen hard, to every party before the court and to each of my colleagues,” Kagan said. “I will work hard.“

The hearing will resume at 9 a.m. ET on Tuesday, when questioning of Kagan is to begin.

Also see these posts today from

Kagan Hearing Podcast: Busy Day at the Court and On the Hill

GOP Opens Its Offense Against Kagan’s Political Stances, Military Recruitment and Legal Heroes

Busy Morning at the High Court; Big Decisions, Farewells and Scrutiny of the Court’s Latest Nominee

Senators Begin Opening Statements at Kagan Confirmation Hearing

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