Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced today he will oppose Solicitor General Elena Kagan's confirmation to the Supreme Court.
"Qualifications for judicial service include both legal experience and, more importantly, the appropriate judicial philosophy," Hatch said in a statement. "The law must control the judge; the judge must not control the law. I have concluded that, based on evidence rather than blind faith, General Kagan regrettably does not meet this standard and that, therefore, I cannot support her appointment."
After the Senate held nearly a week's worth of hearings to examine Kagan's record, it is all but certain Kagan will be confirmed as President Obama's second pick for the Supreme Court, and the fourth female Supreme Court justice ever.
Still, Republicans over the past week made plain their problems with Kagan.
Hatch cited the fact that Kagan's legal experience is nearly all academic or political. The senator also said he could not ignore her praise for "those who endorse an activist judicial philosophy."
"I also cannot ignore disturbing situations in which it appears that her personal or political views drove her legal views," he said. "She promoted the Clinton administration's extreme position on abortion, including the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. As Dean of Harvard Law School, she blocked the access by military recruiters that federal law requires. And she took legal positions on important issues such as freedom of speech that could undermine the liberties of all Americans."Continue »
Sessions didn't mince words -- "I was disappointed. I have to be honest. I felt she was less than open with us certainly, even less than candid."
His harshest criticism of Kagan came in response to her treatment of military recruiters while she was dean at Harvard Law School. Sessions told Crawford in an interview for Friday's edition of "Washington Unplugged" that her response to his questions on the subject "was so consistent with the White House spin."
The National Rifle Association announced today that it plans to oppose the confirmation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court and that votes in support of her "will be considered in NRA's future candidate evaluations."
In a letter addressed to Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Jeff Sessions, R-Alab., the ranking members on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the group said that based on Kagan's record on guns, it had no choice but to oppose her confirmation.
"As she has no judicial record on which we can rely, we have only her political record to review," the letter said. "And throughout her political career, she has repeatedly demonstrated a clear hostility to the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution."
During her confirmation hearings, Kagan was repeatedly asked about her views on the Second Amendment, especially with respect to the Supreme Court's Monday ruling in McDonald v. Chicago, which limited the government's ability to restrict gun rights.
In responding to these questions, Kagan maintained that recent gun rulings have set clear precedent that amounts to "settled law." But she avoided stating her personal opinion on the issue.
According to their letter, the NRA was particularly unsettled by this move.Continue »
Well, another Supreme Court confirmation hearing has come and gone, and the all-but-certain-future-Justice Elena Kagan admirably proved the point she made back in 1995 when she wrote that the hearings had become "a vapid and hollow charade."
Just as John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor had done, Solicitor General Kagan assured the senators that, no, of course her political preferences would not dare show their faces when she sat on the Supreme Court. Just as their predecessors had done, the majority of members on the Judiciary Committee demonstrated that without staff-prepared papers in front of them, their capacity to explore the nuances of Constitutional law more or less equaled their capacity to perform microsurgery. Blindfolded.
To be fair, there were a couple more promising lines of inquiry at the hearing. But they were cut short by the now-customary refusal of a nominee to say anything that might throw light on her approach to the work of a Justice.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the few committee members who brings intellectual light to these proceedings, said what most everyone knows but will not admit: Of course you will bring your values to the bench, just as the Justices on the conservative side of the divide do. He asked exactly the right kind of question when he said that since nobody likes "activist" judges, could you please name one Justice, present or past, whom you regard as an "activist?" General Kagan declined the opportunity.Continue »
Below are 10 questions for you on the hearings, the senators and the Supreme Court overall, including your chance to give some grades.
Cast your votes, or write your thoughts about the hearings in the comments area below:Continue »
If there's one thing that both Democrats and Republicans have agreed on during Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's Senate confirmation hearings, it's that the courts should avoid "judicial activism."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) noted as much today, in the third day of the hearings.
"An activist judge is something none of us like, apparently," Graham said. "Nobody on that side likes it, and nobody on our side likes it."
Indeed, Republicans this week criticized Kagan for naming so-called "judicial activists," such as former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom Kagan clerked, as some of her professional heroes. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the committee, said on Monday that Kagan "associated herself with well-known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the meaning of our Constitution and have the result of advancing that judge's preferred social policies."
Democrats, meanwhile, blasted the current Supreme Court for its own "judicial activism" in favor of corporations over citizens -- citing the Citizens United case. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "If that isn't judicial activism, what is?"
Graham noted today, "It seems to be an activist judge is somebody that rules the way we don't like."
He said he would like a more sophisticated definition of an "activist judge" and asked Kagan for hers.
Kagan said an "activist judge" would be a judge that fails to take three principles to heart: Deference to the right of the political branches of government to make policy, because "that's who ought to be making policy;" respect for precedent; and the principle of deciding cases narrowly, "avoiding constitutional questions, if one can."Continue »
Senate Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn (R-Texas) joined CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford for a special edition of Washington Unplugged Wednesday, where he discussed Elena Kagan's personal and political ideology and questioned whether she would be able to separate her ideology from the rule of law should she become the 112th justice of the Supreme Court.
"She conceded that she's politically a liberal and a Democrat," Cornyn told Crawford. "The question is can she set that aside and assume the role of judge and decided cases without pursuing a political agenda."
On day three of the Kagan confirmation hearings, Cornyn said that "what we don't know is how she will perform her job as a member of the Supreme Court. We're trying to get some measure on what kind of justice she will be."
Cornyn referenced Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings last year and her statements on the second amendment. During her hearings, Sotomayor said the amendment conferred a right to possess a handgun for lawful purposes. According to Cornyn, "[Sotomayor] then promptly, one of her first decisions on the Supreme Court joined an opinion that said their is no individual right. That's very troubling."Continue »
On the third day of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings, Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned whether Kagan upheld her responsibility as the White House's top lawyer to defend the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law -- a law Kagan has clearly said she personally opposes.
Republicans this week have already questioned Kagan about her opposition to "don't ask, don't tell," which was most evident during her tenure as dean of Harvard Law School. As dean, Kagan limited military recruiting on campus because she said the "don't ask, don't tell policy," which prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military, violated the school's anti-discrimination policy.
Sessions today told Kagan that he thought her explanations of her actions at Harvard have been "too consistent" with White House spin. He said "ironically, and almost amazingly," it was later Kagan's job as the Obama administration's solicitor general to uphold "don't ask, don't tell" in court.
The senator questioned Kagan's actions as solicitor general in two particular court challenges to "don't ask, don't tell." In one case, the Ninth Circuit Court did not uphold "don't ask, don't tell." The Ninth Circuit Court, Sessions said, "invented a new standard of review," requiring individual trials for each case against the law. Sessions said it would be "difficult, if not impossible," to uphold the law under that standard.
However, Sessions pointed out, Kagan as solicitor general chose not to challenge the ruling right away.Continue »
Hearing will resume at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Depending on what happened in the hearing today, Kagan may or may not continue to testify tomorrow. But if it goes as scheduled, outside witnesses will speak before the committee then.
Committee staffers advise CBS News that Kagan's hearing and subsequent votes could go as late as 11pm Thursday.
The late Democratic senator from West Virginia died Monday at age 92.
Following the morning session of Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings today - where Kagan fought her way through some tough questioning and even managed to crack a joke every now and then -- Richard Socarides, a former White House senior advisor to President Clinton, said on "Washington Unplugged" that she looked as comfortable as can be for someone in the hot seat.
"This is definitely the Elena Kagan I know and I've worked with," Socarides told moderator Jan Crawford. "She seemed to me today to be in complete command. She did not make a single mistake, not even a small mistake. She was polite but very firm under a pretty sharp attack."
Much of that sharp attack came from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who pressed on Kagan's her decision as the dean of Harvard Law School to prevent military recruiters from entering the Harvard Law School's career services office. Socarides said she effectively handled the questions.
"On the 'don't ask don't tell' stuff, which I think was totally expected, it was a very sharp exchange," Socarides said. "But I think importantly, she said, 'I always followed the law, we were always in compliance with the law,' which I think was important for her to say and get out today."
Washington Unplugged asked viewers whether or not they thought Kagan deserved to be scrutinized for her decision to stop the military from entering the career services office. According to CBS News correspondent Kaylee Hartung, who was monitoring the poll numbers, before Kagan talked about the issue 56 percent of viewers believed she should be scrutinized. When the conversation was over, that number fell to 39 percent.
According to Socarides, that's because people could easily identify with her after hearing her speak. "For people who were watching, you'd have to be persuaded by her answers," he said. "The reason why she is doing this with such ease and such command is I really believe she is being completely honest with the committee."
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who sat down one-on-one with Crawford, was also pleased by what she saw at the hearing. She said she was impressed by Kagan's "bluntness, the fact that she has kept her energy level up."Continue »
Updated 1:20 p.m. ET
To someone in the legal profession, nomination to the Supreme Court may be one of the most prestigious developments in his or her career, and politicians wrangle over Supreme Court nominees' views and ideological leanings each time someone new is nominated.
But by and large, polls show the public knows very little about these nominees.
In a CBS News Poll conducted in late May, about two weeks after Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court, three in four Americans said they had no opinion of Kagan. Just 16 percent had a favorable opinion of her, and 11 percent were unfavorable.
But Kagan is no less well-known than previous nominees. Before their confirmation hearings, four in five had no opinion of Samuel Alito, and 68 percent had no opinion of John Roberts. Although she was better-known than other nominees, more than half had no opinion of Sonia Sotomayor.
"I honestly don't know what that label means," Kagan replied.
She added: "I love my good friend, Ron Klain, but I guess I think that people should be allowed to label themselves. And that's -- you know, I don't know what that label means and so I guess I'm not going to characterize it one way or the other."
Earlier in the hearing, Sessions also asked whether Kagan would agree with the characterization of Greg Craig, former chief counsel to President Obama, who said Kagan is largely a progressive in the mold of Mr. Obama himself.
She noted that although it is possible to glean something about her political views from the fact that she has served in two Democratic administrations, her political views remain separate from her judging.Continue »
Each senator today gets 30 minutes to question Kagan, during which they're likely to press the nominee on the issues mentioned in their opening statements yesterday. Namely, Democrats will question Kagan on recent Supreme Court cases that favored corporations, such as Citizens United, while Republicans will question whether she intends to use a seat on the Court to advance a political agenda that suits her views.
Stay here to read the latest updates on the hearing.
Watch the Hearing Live
Pictures: Kagan Confirmation Hearings
Live Blog Day 1
Kagan Vows "Evenhandedness and Impartiality"
Washington Unplugged: Sessions Calls Out Kagan's "Personal Agenda"
Special Report: Elena Kagan
7 p.m.:: Leahy adjourns the hearings for the day.
6:55:: Cardin asks Kagan about the federal government's authority to enact environmental laws to which Kagan replies the government has "broad authority" to do so.
The senator then said that Congress intends to pass legislation to prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual preference. He said he anticipates a legal challenge to the measure.
"Will you give deference to Congress as we try to create a more perfect union?" Cardin asked.
Kagan said the question of policy is up to Congress but that if there are statutory questions, the question the Court will answer is what Congress intended.
6:40: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asks Kagan how she believes the framers intended for the Constitution to protect people against the abuses of government or special interests.
Kagan called the Constitution a "genius document," noting that certain provisions are very specific while others are general "to ensure the principles the framers' held so dear... would continue to apply throughout the ages."
Cardin said that the Supreme Court "chipped away" at the protections granted by Brown v. Board with a 2007 decision pitting Seattle parents vs. a school district, in which the Court struck down voluntary integration programs. He asked Kagan if decisions like Brown are still relevant.
"I hope and know that Brown and principles therein are still relevant," she said.Continue »
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he is more concerned about the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court than he was during the hearings of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
In an interview with CBS Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford on "Washington Unplugged" today, Sessions called the confirmation hearings "very important," citing a Supreme Court's decision today on gun rights.
"One vote switch would have made it possible for any city or any state in America to completely ban the ownership rights of guns," Sessions said.
Sessions expressed concern that "she's unwilling to enforce plain rights, the right to keep arms and the right to speech, and maybe have a tendency that so many of the other activist judges have to find rights that aren't in the Constitution that seem to fit their personal agendas."Continue »
Updated 4:59 p.m. Eastern Time
Both sides of the gun rights debate are claiming some degree of victory concerning today's 5-4 Supreme Court decision restraining government limits on gun ownership while also allowing for the possibility of some governmental regulation.
The decision did not explicitly strike down a Chicago law banning handguns, though it did seem to set a course for an eventual overturning of the law. The majority opinion, however, also said the decision that local governments are fully subject to the Second Amendment "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values." The position echoed a decision two years ago regarding District of Columbia gun laws.
Despite the perception that the decision was a setback for gun control advocates, Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement that he was "pleased that the Court reaffirmed its language in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment individual right to possess guns in the home for self-defense does not prevent our elected representatives from enacting common-sense gun laws to protect our communities from gun violence."
Helmke argued that Chicago can now amend its laws to comply with the decision and also maintain its regulations on firearms.
"We are reassured that the Court has rejected, once again, the gun lobby argument that its 'any gun, for anybody, anywhere' agenda is protected by the Constitution," he said. "The Court again recognized that the Second Amendment allows for reasonable restrictions on firearms, including who can have them and under what conditions, where they can be taken, and what types of firearms are available."
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, meanwhile, called the decision a "constitutional victory" that could still result in "practical defeat."Continue »