Yesterday is a day that will live in infamy for people of good will across the United States. In a 5-to-4 decision, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court unleashed an unabated free for all by the NRA and other pro-gun extremists over who can arm how many people in the shortest period of time. I am deeply troubled by this ruling as it comes as the result of five conservative, activist judges whose arc of justice bends towards those with guns no matter the circumstance and no matter the community.
Today the Senate begins consideration of the lifetime appointment of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. Critics have said that her judicial record is non-existent, and there are few clues to how she will rule on the country's highest court. However, her past actions do signal her views on one of the most important issues likely to come before the Court in the near future: a state's right to play a role in the enforcement of immigration laws.
Today marks a great moment in American history. This is a landmark decision. It is a vindication for the great majority of American citizens who have always believed the Second Amendment was an individual right and freedom worth defending.
On Monday, I will have the chance to introduce Elena Kagan to the Senate Judiciary Committee as our confirmation process begins in earnest. Before I do, I wanted to clear the air about a mistruth that some are determined to keep recycling and recirculating – I guess not surprising, but nonetheless disappointing when we’re talking about a nomination for the Supreme Court where you’d think the Senate would actually insist on a debate on the merits.
Instead, misinformation, distortions and flat-out untruths about Elena Kagan’s support of the military are growing predictably louder.
And while it’s no surprise that a liberal President would nominate a liberal to serve on the Supreme Court, it is disappointing. What is important in a potential Supreme Court Justice isn’t political ideology—but rather a clear understanding of the role, and limits, of a federal judge.
The new Supreme Court pick, Elena Kagan, has never been a judge. News reports say she doesn't have trial court experience as a lawyer. As a lawyer, she never questioned a witness or made an argument before a jury. She's never been a trial judge, so she never had to make a constitutional ruling in the courtroom in the heat of trial. She's never heard a civil case. She's never heard a criminal case. She's never even heard a traffic case. She's never ruled on the rules of evidence like the exclusionary rule. She's never instructed a jury on reasonable doubt or sentenced a convicted criminal.
Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest news story today. . .
Is Solicitor General Elena Kagan the right choice for the Supreme Court? Why or Why not?
As at Upper Big Branch, a coal dust and methane explosion ripped through the Westray mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia early in the morning. As at Upper Big Branch, rescuers discovered bodies, but toxic air forced them out before they could account for all missing miners. After five days, dangerous conditions permanently ended the search for the missing 11 at Westray. They’re entombed in the hazardous workplace that took their lives, a mine like Upper Big Branch that had been cited for dust and methane violations.
Nova Scotia erected a memorial over the spot where the bodies of the 11 are believed to be, with plaques bearing the names of the miners killed, like tombstones on stanchions. West Virginia no doubt will commemorate those killed at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch.
Congress just passed health care reform for all Americans. This law will now be interpreted by the Executive Branch and the courts for generations. Even a 2700-page bill is not self-explanatory. There will be regulations. And wherever there is ambiguity, there may be lawsuits.
One way courts interpret new laws is through legislative history. Legislative history includes the debates and comments by the members of Congress who voted on the bill, as recorded by the Congressional Record.
When the Supreme Court recesses on Justice Stevens’ final day on the bench, it will mark the end of an extraordinary judicial career spanning four decades, including 35 years on our highest court.
The last Justice from “the Greatest Generation,” John Paul Stevens first answered the call to service when he joined the Navy during World War II. Our nation called on him again years later, and he returned to public service as an appellate judge before accepting President Ford’s nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. He has since become one of the longest serving Justices on the Court. His confirmation was the first of a dozen Supreme Court nominations I have considered in my years in the Senate. As a young, freshman senator, it was a privilege to support his confirmation in 1975.
Justice Stevens’ unique and enduring perspective is irreplaceable; his stalwart adherence to the rule of law is unparalleled. The federal judiciary, and indeed the entire nation, will miss his principled jurisprudence. While it is with a heavy heart, I wish him the best in his retirement.
As we move forward with preparations for the second Supreme Court nomination of this Congress, I am reminded of the Vermont marble inscribed above the entrance of the Supreme Court which pledges “Equal Justice Under Law.” I hope that Senators on both sides of the aisle will make this process a thoughtful and civil discourse. I expect President Obama to continue his practice of consulting with members on both sides of the aisle as he considers this important nomination. The decisions of the Supreme Court are often made by only five individuals, but they impact the daily lives of each and every American. All Senators should strive to fulfill their constitutional duty of advise and consent, and give fair and thorough consideration to Justice Stevens’ successor.