By Emily J. Martin, Vice President, National Women's Law Center
This is cross-posted at Womenstake.org
We've said more than a few times over the past few weeks that Supreme Court confirmation hearings are a unique opportunity for the nation to engage in a conversation about the Supreme Court and the impact that its decisions can have on our lives. We didn't want to lose sight of the fact, however, that the hearings serve the very useful function of introducing us to the individual nominated to sit on that Court.
In the case of Elena Kagan (pictured with Vice President Biden and President Obama), the chance for the public to get a better sense of her seems particularly important. In polls conducted last week, 47 percent of those polled said they didn't know enough about her to opine whether or not she should be confirmed.
This week, that 47 percent got their first chance. Elena Kagan got to speak. And what we have heard so far is reassuring and, indeed, inspiring: she is an articulate, warm, thoughtful woman who is not afraid to show a sense of humor, who takes the power and promise of the judiciary very seriously, and who demonstrates a dazzling command of the law.
She paid homage to Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg, stating, "Their pioneering lives have created boundless possibilities for women in law." She described the method by which the Constitution changes, both through formal amendments and also outside of the formal amendment process, as when the Court came over many years to find racially segregated schools to violate the principles set out in the 14th Amendment, though the drafters of the 14th Amendment understand such schools to be permissible. She affirmed that she believes a "continuing holding" of Roe v. Wade to be "that women's life and women's health have to be protected in abortion regulation." Plus, she talked in knowledgeable detail about antitrust law, campaign finance, cameras in the courtroom, and executive power, among other topics. Finally, she told several excellent jokes. As Senator Schumer said, Justice Scalia is generally thought to get the most laughs on the Supreme Court, but if Kagan is confirmed, she will give him a run for his money.
We're going to be hearing a lot more from Elena Kagan as she continues to answer questions on a wide range of legal and non-legal topics during the remainder of the hearings. But the public is finally getting a chance to bypass the spin and the punditry to see and hear her for themselves.
[image via The White House]