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Thursday round-up

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded its questioning of Elena Kagan and is in recess until 4 p.m. today, leaving commentators with plenty of time to summarize and analyze the proceedings.   Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Charlie Savage of the New York Times describe the questions that Kagan received from skeptical Republicans, while NPR’s Nina Totenberg also summarizes yesterday’s proceedings; in a second piece, Totenberg has both a summary and previews today’s proceedings, in which witnesses are expected to testify regarding the nomination.  The Associated Press (thanks to How Appealing for the link), NPR’s Liz Halloran, JURIST, and the Christian Science Monitor all report on the proceedings, while at The Atlantic, Joshua Green explains why the public should pay attention to the “important debate” at the hearings.   And the editorial board of the New York Times weighs in, arguing that the Senate should vote to confirm the nominee.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports on Kagan’s refusal to express her beliefs on the current Court, while in the Washington Post’s Washington Sketch column, Dana Milbank describes Kagan’s “newfound reticence” in responding to questions.  Perry Bacon of the Washington Post also discusses criticism of Kagan’s testimony by Republicans and “Republican-turned Democrat Arlen Specter,” as well as the response from Senate Democrats.

At times, the debate in the hearing room focused on Kagan’s ideology and on what she believed to be an appropriate style of judging.  The WSJ Law Blog relays Kagan’s comments during the hearings on the “judge-as-umpire” metaphor:  as Politico’s Josh Gerstein also reports, Kagan told the Committee that, rather than just “calling balls and strikes,” Supreme Court Justices must exercise actual judgment.  Meanwhile, the Miami Herald covers Kagan’s assurances to the Senators that she has no ideological agenda.

A great deal of the discussion also focused on Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom Kagan clerked and whose legacy several Senators criticized.  In the Washington Post, Stephanie J. Jones comments on several Senators’ dismissal of Marshall as an “activist judge,” and ACSblog summarizes the ensuing debate.  Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor examines the legacy of Kagan’s other “judicial hero,” Israeli judge Aharon Barak.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg has coverage of the strenuous questioning Kagan received (particularly from Senator Jeff Sessions) with regard to her stance on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, as does CBS News.  At the Huffington Post, Aaron Belkin also comments on that line of attack.  FoxNews has coverage of Kagan’s responses to questions about the stance she took on partial-birth abortion during her time in the Clinton Administration, and the Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin reports on her comments about political speech, as does David Ingram at the BLT, while the WSJ Law Blog covers the debate on the use of foreign law by U.S. courts.

Following the conclusion of the Senators’ questioning, speculation has begun over how the Committee will vote.  At the Wall Street Journal, Naftali Bendavid and Jess Bravin comment on the frustration shown by several Senators during the hearings, as does the WSJ Law Blog’s Ashby Jones.  Meanwhile, Amy Goldstein and Alec MacGillis of the Washington Post note that Kagan sought to make a bipartisan appeal.  Meanwhile, Ilya Shapiro speculates at Cato@Liberty that Senator Arlen Specter may not vote for Kagan.

Despite the contentious debates, a few moments of humor lightened the mood in the hearing room throughout the day.  ABC News has put together a compilation of the hearings’ wittiest exchanges, and the Christian Science Monitor’s Warren Richey remarks on the nominee’s notable sense of humor.  The AP reports that during one such exchange, Kagan refused to choose between “the vampire versus the werewolf” when asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar about “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” movie.  (In another piece of lighthearted coverage, the Huffington Post snapped a picture of Senator Al Franken sketching a remarkable likeness of a very animated Senator Sessions during the hearings.)


  • Following the conclusion of the Court’s term, the American Civil Liberties Union has published a summary of the year’s opinions, which is available with a press release here.
  • At the Wall Street Journal (with thanks to How Appealing for the link), Jess Bravin comments on Justice Kennedy’s continuing role as the critical swing vote on the Court.  In a second WSJ piece, Bravin looks back at Justice Stevens’ legacy.
  • The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes has a wrap-up of the Court’s now-concluded 2009 Term, writing that in the past months, the Roberts Court “established itself as a confident group of justices willing to act boldly and speak independently.”
  • PrawfsBlawg has a follow-up piece on the Court’s recent decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
  • The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal also opines on the response to the Martinez ruling.
  • At the Washington Post, Courtland Milloy discusses Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion filed Monday in McDonald v. Chicago.
  • At the AP, Mark Sherman offers an analysis of the Court’s now-finished Term.