Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Sometime last year I began familiarizing myself with U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan because I had read that she was likely to be considered for the U.S. Supreme Court in the event that an opening should arise. That prospect became a reality when President Barack Obama recently chose Kagan as his nominee to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who at the age of 90 has announced his retirement from the nation's highest court.

Politics being what they are, I suspect that some in the Republican ranks will find reasons to oppose the nomination. Notwithstanding that reality, I must say that I have thus far not found a single thing that causes me any concern about the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. To the contrary, she seems to be uniquely and eminently qualified to serve.

It does seem strange that someone just a year older than I am is now being considered for the U.S. Supreme Court. Could it be that, having recently turned 50, Kagan will be challenged on the basis of her extreme youth? Alas, I realize that no one around my age will ever be referred to as a spring chicken again.

Kagan has served as the Solicitor General since March of 2009. She is the past dean of Harvard Law School, and she previously served as White House counsel to President Bill Clinton. She served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals. By all accounts, she is engaging and open-minded. I can't really think of a better background for the Supreme Court--unless perhaps if she had practiced as a litigator in southern Indiana for 23 years or so.

Some may question the fact that Elena Kagan has never previously served as a judge, but any argument based on that fact strikes me as being specious. There are a variety of avenues to prominence and respect in the legal community. Lower level judicial experience can be a good thing, but it is certainly not a prerequisite to service on the high court. As has been pointed out, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist--who served admirably on the court for decades--had no prior judicial experience at the time of his nomination.

It will be interesting to watch the debate unfold regarding the nomination of Elena Kagan. I, for one, think that she is an excellent choice.

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