The ABA “has returned its highest rating of unanimously well qualified,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy in a statement. The rating “is further evidence of Elena Kagan’s qualifications to serve as an independent justice,” the Vermont Democrat said.
The ABA, a group of 400,000 legal professionals, regularly provides ratings for nominees to the federal bench.
President Barack Obama on May 10 nominated Kagan, 50, to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. She is currently the administration’s chief courtroom lawyer. Her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee begin June 28.
Leahy announced today that Kagan will be introduced at the hearings by both of Massachusetts’s senators, Republican Scott Brown and Democrat John Kerry. Kagan is a former dean of Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
While Brown hasn’t endorsed her, he praised her after the two met in his office after Obama nominated her.
Still, there are signs of more Republican opposition on the Judiciary Committee. Panel member Orrin Hatch of Utah said in a Senate floor speech today he has significant concerns about her nomination.
He said Kagan’s past work, including four years as an aide to former President Bill Clinton, suggests her personal and political views on abortion and other issues drive her legal opinions.
He also said Kagan’s remark that Aharon Barak, the former president of Israel’s Supreme Court, is her “judicial hero” raises a red flag because of Barak’s reputation as a judicial activist.
“For most of her career, Ms. Kagan has endorsed, and has praised others who endorse, an activist judicial philosophy,” said Hatch, who last year voted to confirm Kagan as solicitor general.
Kagan is the 13th Supreme Court nominee named by Republican and Democratic presidents that Hatch has considered since he was first elected to the Senate in 1976, said his press secretary, Antonia Ferrier. The only nominee he opposed, she said, was Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by Obama last year and confirmed 68- 31 with nine Republican senators supporting her.