JONATHAN CHAIT JUNE 29, 2010
I never saw this coming:
At the opening of questioning in her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Solicitor General Elena Kagan quickly backpedaled from her past call for nominees to speak more openly and in specific terms about their constitutional views.
Under questioning by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, Ms. Kagan said she thought it would be inappropriate for her to talk about how she might rule on pending cases or cases “that might come before the court in the future” — or to answer questions that were “veiled” efforts to get at such issues.
Moreover, she said, she also now believed that “it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about past cases” by essentially grading Supreme Court precedents, because those issues, too, might someday come again before the court.
In a 1995 book review, Ms. Kagan wrote that recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings had taken on “an air of vacuity and farce” because nominees would not engage in a meaningful discussion of legal issues, declining to answer any question that might “have some bearing on a case that might some day come before the Court.” She called on senators and future nominees to engage in a much more open and detailed discussion of legal issues.
It's almost enough to make me think that public figures tailor their views on procedural questions to suit their position of the moment. I just hope that, if the Republicans pick up a few Senate seats and gain the ability to hold 40 votes against judicial nominees, they don't rethink their principled objections to judicial filibusters. That would really make turn me into a cynic.