Archive for the ‘Elena Kagan’ Category



Kagan Vote: DiFi & Babs Toe SCOTUS Party Line

Friday, August 6th, 2010

By James Kuo
California News Service
Special to Calbuzz

When California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer voted Thursday to confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, they kept intact a pattern of party loyalty that increasingly defines high court nominations.

Since they arrived in the Senate more than 17 years ago, Feinstein and Boxer both have voted for all four justices nominated by Democratic presidents – and against both justices nominated by a Republican.

Both have made clear their belief that a nominee’s judicial philosophy – not merely their experience, integrity and intellect — is a perfectly valid criterion in deciding whether to support a nomination.

The Senate confirmed Kagan by a 63 to 37 vote with all but one Democrat voting in favor and all but five Republicans voting against.

In speaking to her colleagues, Feinstein said Kagan’s professional qualifications alone were not enough to win her support.

“A nominee must also show that he or she has the appropriate judicial temperament, has the commitment to follow the law, and bring a judicial philosophy that will not pull the Court outside of the mainstream. And I have confidence in her in each of these areas.

Boxer praised Kagan’s “intellect, her broad range of legal experience, her sense of fairness, and her profound respect for the law.’’

Thursday’s vote underscored the growing partisan divide on judicial confirmations.

A quarter century ago, Justice Antonin Scalia was confirmed by a 98-0 vote; the only Republicans to support Kagan were Lindsey Graham of North South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

Graham’s support for Kagan, which angered many of his fellow conservatives, illustrates the divide over how the Senate exercises its responsibility to provide “Advice and Consent’’ as put forth in the Constitution.

Unlike Feinstein, he said that a nominee’s ability to serve, not judicial philosophy, should be the deciding factor in confirming a justice.

“She is not someone I would have chosen,’’ Graham said of Kagan on the Senate floor. “But it’s not my job to choose. It’s President Obama’s job and he earned that right.”

Feinstein and Boxer’s perfect record of supporting the choices of their own party’s presidents and rejecting those of the opposition is increasingly common among newcomers to the Senate. However, among the 32 senators who have served as long as Feinstein and Boxer, only eight – all Democrats – have voted so consistently along party lines.

Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which conducts hearings on the nominees, has spoken bluntly on the role of judicial philosophy in the confirmation process.

“Mine is a vote that is made with the belief that a person’s legal reasoning and judicial philosophy, especially at a time of crisis, at times of conflict, and at times of controversy, do mean a great deal,’’ Feinstein said on the Senate floor in 2006 before she voted against Justice Samuel Alito.

Feinstein listed twelve cases throughout history in which legal views and philosophy – not competence – were the rationale for rejecting Supreme Court nominees.

“It is my belief that (Alito’s) legal philosophy and views will essentially swing the Court far out of the mainstream, toward legal philosophy and views that do not reflect the majority views of this country.’’

A year earlier, Feinstein praised John Roberts’ “brilliant legal mind’’ and his “love and abiding respect for the law.’’ Yet she voted against his confirmation after expressing concern about him “staying in touch with people who have different life experiences,’’ and his failure to clearly articulate his judicial philosophy.

The partisan divide has been more pronounced over the past five years.

Each of the sitting justices who preceded Roberts received overwhelming bipartisan support. Both of President Reagan’s nominees, Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, were confirmed unanimously.  Clarence Thomas, President H. W. Bush’s nominee was confirmed by a close 52 to 48 vote after a former employee accused him of sexual harassment. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, both Clinton appointees, received large bipartisan approval.

California’s senators have not been as partisan on other federal judgeships. Feinstein voted against only eight of the 323 federal judges nominated by President Bush. Boxer voted against 12. Both senators voted in favor of every judge nominated by President Clinton.

California News Service reporter James Kuo is a senior at the University of California Irvine. CNS, a project of UC’s Washington Center and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, may be reached at cns@ucdc.edu

SUPREME COURT CONFIRMATION VOTES

Antonin Scalia (Reagan)               1986     98-0

Anthony Kennedy (Reagan)       1988    97-0

Clarence Thomas (Bush)               1991     52-48

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton)   1993  96-3

Stephen Breyer (Clinton)              1994     87-9

John Roberts (Bush)                       2005    78-22

Samuel Alito (Bush)                        2006    58-42

Sonia Sotomayor (Obama)           2009    68-31

Elana Kagan (Obama)                      2010   63-37

Carly does some deep thinking: Going all somber and Senatorial on us, Hurricane Carly Fiorina announced with great solemnity Thursday that she decided she would vote against Kagan’s nomination.

If she had a vote. Or if anybody asked her.

“I closely followed the Senate’s confirmation hearings and have taken time to carefully consider how I would vote on Elena Kagan’s nomination were I a member of the Senate today,” she said,  suspense building unbearably.

Scene: Night at Monticello. Carly Fiorina sits at an old oak campaign desk, gazing out into the dark, face lit only by the reflection in the window glass of a single flickering candle.

Brow deeply furrowed, she swiftly scratches a few sentences with a quill pen on parchment. As she dips the writing instrument back into a small bottle of blue ink , the camera zooms in for a tight shot from behind,  revealing what she has just written: “Memo to self: Get Fred Davis in here to brainstorm a new spot – me talking to Jefferson. Or is it Hamilton? I always get those two mixed up.”

After much deliberation and chin stroking, Carly duly informed us in her statement, that while Kagan has many good qualities:

“…the process also underscored her lack of experience as a jurist, which in my mind is a key element in determining whether or not a nominee is qualified to serve as a member of the Supreme Court…

“Unfortunately, her complete lack of judicial experience coupled with a public record that sheds minimal light on how she would execute these duties gives me great pause about her qualifications to serve on the highest court in the land.  It is for that reason that I have decided not to support her nomination to this position.”

Calbuzz fun at home for the kids: See what happens when you replace the word “jurist” with “legislator,”  “Supreme Court” with “Senate” and “the highest court in the land” with “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”  You’ll be amazed!

Hurricane history lesson: What does Elena Kagan have in common with Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, John Marshall, William Rehnquist, Earl Warren and 36 percent of all the Supreme Court justices ever confirmed? Hint: The answer is not that they all single-handedly trashed world-class tech companies.

Sessions vs Kagan: Good Ol’ Demagogues Die Hard

Monday, July 5th, 2010

By Les Francis
Special to Calbuzz

In all likelihood, sometime later this month U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan will be confirmed as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Her confirmation hearings showed Ms Kagan to be smart, intellectually nimble, charming, infinitely reasonable and tolerant.

The same cannot be said about her chief antagonist on the Senate Judiciary Committee:  Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Republican of Alabama.

Sessions led the charge against Kagan from the day President Obama announced her nomination to the nation’s highest court. His opposition was immediate, shrill and to many, offensive.

Sessions’ arguments were offensive, not because they were made in opposition to a judicial nominee of whom he disapproved. That’s his right, after all. But rather because of what one can easily surmise lay behind his position.

Let’s start with the premise that Sen. Sessions’ own biography is just as important to the confirmation process as is a nominee’s.

Appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Sessions went on to be nominated by Reagan to be a U.S. District Court judge in 1986. And it was that confirmation process that is relevant to today’s conversation. Sessions failed to be confirmed, not because the political opposition was out to “get” him, but rather because his life story was not quite as sterile and mainstream as Ms Kagan’s has turned out to be.

Although the Republicans held the majority in the Senate in 1986, and therefore dominated the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions’ nomination to the Federal bench was derailed, on a bi-partisan vote, after it was revealed that the nominee had harbored, or at least had expressed, racist sentiments during his time as U.S. Attorney.

During those 1986 hearings, a number of Justice Department officials, including J. Gerald Hebert (a man of impeccable professional credentials and high personal integrity), testified under oath that Sessions had made racist statements in their presence. Moreover, Gerry Hebert said that the nominee had referred to the NAACP and ACLU as “un-American and “Communist-inspired.”

And what was Sessions’ rationale for such a serious charge? Those organizations, among others, had—in Sessions’ view—“forced civil rights down the throats of people.” Hebert went on to recount how Jeff Sessions had once referred to a white civil rights lawyer who dealt with voting rights cases a “disgrace to his race.”

Another Justice Department lawyer, an African American Assistant U.S. Attorney, testified that Sessions once said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” The same witness also alleged, under oath, that Sessions had once referred to him as “boy”, and that “Mr. Sessions admonished me to ‘be careful what you say to white folks.’”

Sessions defended himself by claiming that his remarks were taken out of context, or that they were innocent “jokes”, and comments meant in jest. Sessions’ notion of what is funny must be examined in the context of the past week’s hearings wherein he and other Republicans attempted to discredit Ms Kagan by trashing the noble and historic role played by her mentor, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American ever appointed to the Supreme Court.

Sessions’ own temperament and character became evident during the course of a particularly disturbing exchange with then-Democratic Sen. Joe Biden  in those 1986 hearings. Biden asked Sessions whether or not he had referred to the NAACP and other civil rights groups as “un-American.” Astonishingly, both at the time but particularly in retrospect, Sessions’ defense was, “I’m often loose with my tongue. I may have said something about the NAACP being un-American or Communist, but I meant no harm by it.”

No harm? Indeed!

Whether or not Sen. Sessions has a right to be bitter still over that experience and outcome in 1986, when he became only the second person in a half century to be denied confirmation to a federal judgeship is arguable. What is not okay, however, is to argue that Sessions’ own record and rhetoric aren’t fair game as he goes about trying to defeat Ms Kagan or any future judicial nominees put forward by President Obama.

Moreover, if someone of Sessions’ caliber is going to go after the likes of Elena Kagan and Thurgood Marshall through the use of innuendo and code words, then he should expect to be subjected to critical cross-examination and vigorous challenge by his colleagues, the media, and American citizens of all types and persuasions.

It’s way past time to put a stop to cheap shots and demagoguery, especially when employed by politicians whose own records are suspect, or worse.

Les Francis is a Washington-based public affairs and political consultant. He is former chief of staff to then U.S. Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-San Jose) and Deputy White House Chief of Staff to President Jimmy Carter. He also served as  Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Gov Race to Bottom, Scotus Gay Watch, Press Clips

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Steve Poizner, pouring another $2.5 million into his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor, unloads another new ad on eMeg Whitman today, this one attacking her for failing to vote for nearly three decades.

“For 28 years, Meg Whitman didn’t vote. Not once,” the ad says. “She didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan, George Bush, or Pete Wilson, for 28 years. Meg Whitman says she’s for Prop. 13, but over 100 times she could have voted against higher taxes and more spending, and she didn’t vote.”

Here’s what The Commish is up to (after spending about $22 million of his own money): a two-track negative campaign against Whitman.

Track One is ideological – the Tom McClintock and immigration ads, hammering Whitman for being too “liberal.”

Track Two is a character attack – the “Vulture” ad on Goldman Sachs and now an ad about how she wasn’t even a voter for most of her adult life.

Poizner’s message: Not only is Whitman bad on the issues but she’s a bad person.

None of which tells voters why they should vote for Poizner. And, of course, Whitman’s got plenty of hits on him on the air (especially after sticking another $5 million into the race, bringing her total to a staggering $64 million).

In fact, her latest, charging that he “supported partial birth abortion” manages to hammer Poizner on two tracks at once: not only is he too liberal, but he’s wicked to boot.

It’s a race to the bottom, sports fans.

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay: This whole Elena Kagan is-she-or-isn’t-she thing was giving us a big headache –  even before the Wall Street Journal suggested on the front page Obama’s new Supreme Court nominee  might be a switch hitter.

To recap: CBS News embarrassed itself big time last month, when its web site blithely ran a piece from Ben Domenech, a discredited, third-rate conservative blogger, declaring that Solicitor General Kagan would be the first gay justice were she appointed and confirmed. CBS pulled the post down, after the White House objected that the claim was a lie and Giant of Journalism Domenech acknowledged that he was only, you know, speculating about whether she was gay.

The issue disappeared briefly, then resurfaced when the president actually nominated Kagan this week. Ever since, there has been a rash of stories on the subject.

One of the stranger is Politico’s round-up of Friends of Elena to swear that she’s not gay; that one of these FOEs is Eliot Spitzer, the sex-crazed former New York governor, who rather mysteriously testified that “I did not go out with her, but other guys did…I don’t think it is my place to say more,” only added to our head scratching over the piece.

Now comes the Wall Street Journal, channeling the New York Post, its sister Murdoch paper, to run a big ole two column, page one photo of Kagan playing softball back in the day, which  photo promptly led some gay rights leaders to complain that the Journal’s Innuendo Editor was trying to signal, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, that Kagan is a lesbian because, after all, what other kind of woman would play softball, all of which led to much  brow furrowing and wool gathering from the big brains over at the Columbia Journalism Review.

Hence our aforementioned headache, arising from the fact that not a single one of these yarns raises the key questions: 1) Why is everyone from Obama to Happy Hooker Friend Spitzer acting like it would be some terrible scandal if Kagan were gay and 2) who the hell cares anyway?

The narrative line hasn’t been a total loss for us though: MLB.com’s Mark Newman did a terrific piece in which he asked a bunch of Mets and Nats players to analyze Kagan’s batting stance. Lots of thoughtful clubhouse debate about whether the bat’s too far from the hitting zone, but for our money Nationals closer Matt Capps offered the most trenchant comment:

It looks like she’s choking up there and she’s locked down, so it looks like she’s going to give you an aggressive fight — which is probably a good thing in the position she’s going to be in.

Press Clips: Must read of the week is LA Timesmen Evan Halper and Jack Dolan’s defining piece on eMeg’s business and financial dealings…We  don’t always agree with Robert Cruickshank’s political analysis, but it’s for sure the Oracle is a very smart fella and serious guy who works hard at making sense of where California is and where it’s going…After reading Connie Brucker’s New Yorker profile of Haim Saban, we finally understood why  the   L.A. Media tycoon is throwing millions at the effort to roll back reapportionment reform in California, the better to protect West Side reps Henry Waxman and Howard Berman…The Zev Chafets takeout on San Antonio mayor Julian Castro is a wonderfully told tale of the most important Latino pol we’d never heard of.

I’m sorry sir, but your AK-47 has to go in the overhead: The silliest issue of the entire campaign season is the loud objection of GOP wannabe Senator Carly Fiorina to restricting gun sales to people on the anti-terror fly list because it would infringe on their Second Amendment rights, as Joe Mathews makes perfectly clear here.