Confirmation Hearings To Commence for Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan

UPDATED 12:25 p.m.

Former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan will begin today the week-long process of confirmation hearings for her nomination to the Supreme Court.

The hearings, which will be conducted by the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, are set to start Monday at 12:30 p.m., marking the second time the former Solicitor General has appeared before the committee for a confirmation hearing in a little over a year.

According to the witness list released by the Senate Judiciary Committee, five Harvard affiliates will appear to testify as major witnesses during the hearings: Law School Professor and former dean Robert C. Clark, Law School Professor Jack L. Goldsmith III, Law Lecturer and Winthrop House Master Ronald S. Sullivan, President of the Harvard Law Armed Forces Association Kurt White, and Massachusetts Appeals Court Judge and Law School graduate Fernande “Nan” Duffly.

Among the issues expected to be discussed is Kagan’s stance on military recruiting while she was dean of the Law School. Kagan’s critics—calling her "anti-military"—claim that she barred military recruiters from campus during her tenure as dean. But in the days leading up to today's hearings, the media has been abuzz about recently uncovered e-mails and documents released by the Department of Defense suggesting that Kagan did not prevent military recruiting, though she did bar recruiters from conducting interviews through the school’s career center.

The White House has been publicizing the endorsements of Kagan's advocates, such as a letter to two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in which more than 60 deans at major American law schools—including current Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow—expressed their suport for Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court and wrote that she possessed all the "relevant dimensions desired in a Supreme Court justice." Last Tuesday, eight solicitors general signed a letter stating their belief that Kagan would "serve on the Court with distinction."

But some members of the Republican party say that Kagan's denial of military recruiters' access to Harvard Law School's career center and criticisms of military policies created an unwelcome environment for recruiters.

"Instead of welcoming the military recruiters on campus, she punished them, relegating them to second-class status," Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "Dean Kagan's public comments contributed to a hostile on-campus environment for both recruiters and student veterans alike."

If confirmed, the 1986 Harvard Law School graduate will join the ranks of five sitting Supreme Court justices who also graduated from the school. Kagan, who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall and previously served as Solicitor General, would also be the first Justice since William H. Rehnquist without prior judicial experience and, at 50 years of age, the youngest Justice on the Court.

A successful confirmation process would make Kagan the second of President Barack Obama’s nominees to join the Supreme Court over a period of under two years. In May 2009, Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace retired Justice David Souter, and she was confirmed by the Senate in August 2009.

—Staff writer Derrick Asiedu can be reached at dasiedu@fas.harvard.edu.

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