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Elena Kagan says she'll "never" accept the partisan gerrymandering decision

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan will "never" accept the outcome of the Supreme Court's recent 5-4 decision on partisan gerrymandering, she said Thursday. "There is no part of me that's ever going to become accepting of the decision made," Kagan said in an interview with the dean of Georgetown University Law School, William Treanor. 

The narrowly divided Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal courts have no role to play in the drawing of congressional districts — it's a matter for states to decide. The ruling came as a blow to efforts to limit the drawing of electoral districts for partisan gain.

Kagan, along with the three other liberal justices, sided against the majority, arguing that the court's decision could have a negative impact on the fate of future elections and democracy. She wrote in her dissent, "For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities." 

She continued, "Of all times to abandon the Court's duty to declare the law, this was not the one. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court's role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections."

Reflecting on the ruling, Kagan said Thursday, "I am a hundred percent certain in every bone of my body that the majority was acting in complete good faith as to why it reached the decision it did, but I do think it got it wrong," adding, "and that was one which was a kind of, you know, I want everybody to be thinking about this going forward."

Kagan also talked about the philosophy of writing dissents, explaining that they aren't simply an expression of the minority perspective — they're arguments for cases that have yet to be brought.

"You're not writing the dissent because you saw the thing differently, and you think everybody should know there were two sides to this issue," she said. "You're writing a dissent because you want to convince the future and I guess you want to convince the present too."

And the associate justice also took a moment to praise the legacy of the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who died at the age of 99 years earlier this week, on Tuesday. Kagan, confirmed in 2010, succeeded Stevens after his nearly 35-year tenure on the court. 

She recalled that Stevens offered her "kindness" and "wisdom" when she took his place on the bench nearly a decade ago. 

"He had a real passion for justice, a real insistence that the legal system operate fairly for those going through it," Kagan said. 

Kagan called Stevens' body of legal work "unsurpassed in modern times." Stevens — one of the longest-serving justices to sit on the court — was known for his frequently independent opinions and dissents. 

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