Kagan heads back to the Hill for whirlwind visits

WASHINGTON (AP) — She may never have been a judge or worked on many cases, but Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is assuring senators that she's up to the job of being a justice.

Her lack of courtroom experience is just one line of criticism Republicans are lobbing against Kagan, the 50-year-old solicitor general President Barack Obama tapped to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Kagan has gotten off to a fast start meeting with senators whose votes she'll need for confirmation. Shuttling from Capitol Hill office to office for a delicate but crucial series of "courtesy calls," she's stayed quiet in public but fielded questions in private about her resume, opinions and legal philosophy.

Kagan, a former Harvard Law School dean, defended herself Wednesday against Republican doubts about her fitness to be a justice. She said she'd be "faithful to the law," according to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who said he asked whether she could be impartial given that she's identified with "liberal" positions and has clerked for two judges he called "activist."

Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel that will hold Kagan's confirmation hearings, said he'd do his best to give her a "fair" hearing, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee chairman, said he'd guarantee a process where senators could ask "all relevant questions."


Republicans are questioning whether Kagan can be impartial in light of her political views and current position on Obama's team. And they have harshly criticized her decision while at Harvard to bar military recruiters from campus because she disagreed with the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay soldiers.

GOP senators say they want to see documents from her time serving in Bill Clinton's White House to get a better understanding of her fitness for the Supreme Court.

"I think all the documents that are producible should be produced," Sessions said. "The American people are entitled to know what kind of positions she took, and what kind of issues she was involved with during her past public service."

Democrats praise Kagan as a highly qualified, sharp legal mind who will bring an important perspective from outside the federal bench to the job of justice.

"She brings to this court that kind of intellect and those values that can make a positive difference for the future of the court," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

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