Tales from the Trail

Humor in the hearing room

kaganOn day-two of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing, she didn’t reveal much about her specific views on a wide range of issues over nine hours.

But now we know the U.S. Solicitor General can be funny. Very funny.

Kagan repeatedly disarmed lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary panel with a quick sense of humor.

Kagan, who as U.S.  Solicitor General currently represents the government in cases before the Supreme Court, refused to take the bait when Arizona Republican Jon Kyl asked if she agreed with complaints that the court had favored corporate interests in recent rulings.

“I would not want to characterize the current court in any way — I hope one day to join it,” Kagan said.

“And they said you weren’t political,” Kyl responded to laughter from Kagan and the audience.

To reach Supreme Court, first court the senators

Elena Kagan is making the rounds.

To get a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, a nominee must first wear out a lot of shoe leather on Capitol Hill. And smile, smile, smile.

USA/So that’s precisely what President Barack Obama’s choice for the high court has been doing this week. While Kagan is considered likely to get Senate confirmation, nothing is ever guaranteed in this process – remember President George W. Bush’s nominee Harriet Miers?

The other hard-and-fast rule of these Hill chats is that afterward the senators talk, the Supreme Court nominee doesn’t.

Obama picks “Shorty” for Supreme Court

Elena Kagan rose to the occasion — literally — stepping up onto a riser behind the podium so she would be closer to eye level with the President and Vice President of the United States on either side of her.

President Barack Obama, looking quite pleased with himself, introduced her as his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy opened by the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens.  USA-COURT/

“She has often referred to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked, as her hero,” Obama said. “I understand that he reciprocated by calling her ‘Shorty’.”

May 26 is the real Court drop-dead date


Amidst the fever of  speculation about when President Barack Obama will unveil his next nominee to the Supreme Court, administration officials quietly point to one date — May 26 — as the absolute deadline for him to make his choice.

May 26 is the date last year when Obama named then-appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his first nominee for a Supreme Court vacancy. And despite what became a fairly nasty battle over her qualifications, she was confirmed on August 6, before the Senate adjourned for its August recess.

The logic at the White House is that opposition Republicans cannot argue that there is not enough time to consider a nominee if Obama makes his announcement before May 26, because there was enough time last year for Sotomayor.

Bill Clinton urges Obama to think young for Supreme Court

clintonWhile playwright George Bernard Shaw argued youth is wasted on the young, former President Bill Clinton on Sunday urged President Barack Obama to put youth high on the list of attributes for the next United States Supreme Court nominee.

“I’d like to see him (President Barack Obama) put someone in their late 40s or early 50s on the court and someone, you know, with a lot of energy for the job,” Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the oldest and longest-serving justices in history, announced earlier this month he would resign. Stevens celebrates his 90th birthday on April 20.

U.S. Supreme Court advice for Obama

Someone experienced in making hard decisions with the imagination to understand how rulings affect the lives of Americans. OBAMA/

Those words of advice came from Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer as President Barack Obama searches for a replacement for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Testifying before Congress on the Supreme Court’s budget request, they gave their views about the type of person Obama should select, without getting into judicial philosophy. The U.S. Senate must confirm the nominee.