Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced Friday that he will vote against the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
Hatch is the first member of the Judiciary Committee to officially announce his opposition to Kagan's nomination.
The Utah Republican voted to confirm Kagan as solicitor general, but suggested in a statement that she would put her personal views ahead of the law if confirmed to the court.
"The law must control the judge; the judge must not control the law," Hatch said. "I have concluded that, based on evidence rather than blind faith, General Kagan regrettably does not meet this standard and that, therefore, I cannot support her appointment."
Hatch cited Kagan's lack of judicial experience and noted that other nominees who have never been judges had spent more time than Kagan in private practice.
"The fact that her experience is instead academic and political only magnifies my emphasis on judicial philosophy as the most important qualification for judicial service," Hatch said.
He also said he was troubled by Kagan's admiration for judges with an "activist judicial philosophy," likely a reference to the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom Kagan clerked.
“Over nearly 25 years, General Kagan has endorsed, and praised those who endorse, an activist judicial philosophy,” he said. “I was surprised when she encouraged us at the hearing simply to discard or ignore certain parts of her record. I am unable to do that.”
Despite Hatch’s public opposition, Kagan’s confirmation is all but assured. The only question is how many votes she will get once the nomination hits the Senate floor after the July 4th recess.
She earned good reviews for her knowledge of case law, her composure during questioning and humorous one-liners that added some comic relief to days of testimony full of legal terms and complicated cases.
In the past Hatch has voted in favor of Democratic presidents’ nominations to Supreme Court, but last year he opposed Sonia Sotomayor, who was confirmed on a 68-31 vote. He is facing a potentially tough 2012 primary challenge from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
Republicans on the panel, however, criticized her admittedly “progressive” political views and said history shows that nominees who testify cautiously during hearings reveal their true judicial philosophy during subsequent Supreme Court opinions.