When President Obama announced his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, he praised Sotomayor for having worked at almost every level of the judicial system, which provided her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective which will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice.
Beaming with pride, the President noted that Sotomayor came to the Supreme Court with more judicial experience than any of the other Supreme Court justices had when they were nominated. During her tenure on the district court, she presided over roughly 450 cases.
Today, the President announced his nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill retiring Justice Steven’s seat on the Supreme Court. Kagan has no judicial experience and for the last 20 years has bounced around from one high-paying job to another. She worked as a law professor at 2 of America’s top universities, and became a dean at one of them, although she did not have the kind of academic record one would expect these positions to require. She worked as a law clerk and as Associate White House Council under President Clinton. She became Solicitor General in 2009 without having litigated one single case. As one reporter puts it – her career represents rampant elitism and cronyism.
When President Obama announced Stevens’ retirement, he promised to seek someone “with an independent mind; a record of excellence and integrity; fierce dedication to the rule of law . . . a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people . . . who knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.”
When he announced his nomination of Kagan today, the President tried hard to make his nominee sound worthy of the position. However, all he could come up with as a result of Kagan’s limited judicial experience was this: “Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds. She’s an acclaimed legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law. She is a former White House aide, with a life-long commitment to public service and a firm grasp of the nexus and boundaries between our three branches of government. She is a trailblazing leader, the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School, and one of the most successful and beloved deans in its history.”
Kagan possesses none of the characteristics the President promised to seek in a nominee. However, there is one thing about Kagan’s nomination that brings a little satisfaction – the thought of her going toe-to-toe with Chief Justice John Roberts.