Kagan pledges impartiality, restraint on Supreme Court

By Alec MacGillis and Amy Goldstein, Washington Post

Elena Kagan will face her first questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, after telling lawmakers that she would bring a “modest” approach to the Supreme Court and show great deference to the other, elected branches of government.

After hours of opening statementsfrom senators and Kagan herselfon Monday, the confirmation hearing for President Obama‘s nominee to become the 112th justice of the nation’s highest court is to reconvene Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Monday’s statements were dominated by a broad ideological clash between Democrats and Republicans on the panel — over judicial restraint and the proper reach of government.

Speaking in slow and deliberate tones, Kagan told the committee that her experience as a legislative aide, a White House adviser and most recently solicitor general had underscored for her the importance of a judicial branch that knows its bounds.

“The Supreme Court is a wondrous institution. But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one — properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives,” Kagan said.

The democratic process, she added, “is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests. The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”

These remarks, the only part of a 14-minute opening statement that hinted at her views, hold relevance for the justices’ impending work. They may be called upon to assess the constitutionality of several products of Democratic governance, most notably the health-care overhaul passed in March.

And the remarks came in the context of a vigorous attempt by the Democrats on the panel to make the nomination battle about the direction of the court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Pushing back against years of Republican rhetoric about “activist” liberal judges, one Democrat after another argued that it was Roberts and his conservative colleagues who were displaying true activism in overturning legislation such as restrictions on corporate spending on elections.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/29/AR2010062900840.html

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