UR Law Professor Studied Under Kagan
An Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Richmond is watching the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court with special interest.
Professor Kevin Walsh was a student in Kagan’s administrative law classroom.
Walsh: Elena Kagan was hands down one of the best professors at the Harvard Law School. I don’t necessarily share the same ideology that she has, but I admired her poise, her presence in the classroom. She had such a command of the whole room and of the material. She just really sparkled as a teacher.
Kagan is not a judge; she is the Solicitor General. The last person to move from that job to the high court , Walsh commented, was the man Kagan served as a law clerk for 22 years, Thurgood Marshall.
Walsh: There have been many supreme court justices who have not sat on the bench before. In fact Richmond’s own Lewis Powell is one of those justices and he was well-respected. Chief Justice Rehnquist, when he was first put on the bench, he did not have any judicial experience. I think one difference between Elena Kagan and William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell is that Elena Kagan does not have the same private practice experience that those two had.
Walsh believes her record as Solicitor General isn’t be the focus of confirmation hearings.
Walsh: I think the main focus is going to be on her lack of judicial experience. In this way it will parallel the focus of her confirmation hearing when she was Solicitor General. The Solicitor General represents the United States government before the Supreme Court, and opposition to her filling that position focused on the fact that she had not argued in court before. Nevertheless, there is now a track record to assess her experience there.
Not every Senator, he said, is likely to agree with all of her actions over years in public life.
Walsh: In addition to experience I think there will be a focus on the banning of military recruiters from on-campus recruiting at the Harvard Law School. This is something, a policy decision that the school made based on the military’s don’t ask don’t tell policy. Ultimately, the recruiters were let on campus because federal law required it. So Dean Kagan complied with the law, but then signed a brief seeking to get out from underneath it.
Walsh says there are a number of things to consider, looking at Kagan’s potential impact on the court.
Walsh: The conventional wisdom says that there is not much of a difference because you are replacing liberal justices with other liberal justices, but I think you’ll see, especially with the age of these nominees and the new justices, I think you’ll see that President Obama will leave an enduring legacy on the court. It’s just the shape of that legacy is yet to be determined.
In 1995 Kagan characterized confirmation hearings as a “vapid and hollow charade…when the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues...”
Walsh: Barring any surprises, certainly this nomination is expected to go through.
John Ogle, WCVE News