That's what the Senate Judiciary Committee wanted to know Monday,the first day of Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Kagan,nominated in May by President Barack Obama to take the place of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens,didn't give the committee members many answers in her opening statement. She will begin answering questions Tuesday.
“I will make no pledges this week other than this one – that if confirmed,I will remember and abide by all these lessons,” she said. “I will listen hard … I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially,modestly,with commitment to principles,and in accordance with the law.”
Kagan's liberal activism and lack of judicial experience were the main criticisms of the committee's Republican members.
Sen. Lindsey Graham,R-S.C.,said Kagan brings a “little bit of this,a little bit of that” to the hearings and is the best example of why a hearing should be “probing and meaningful.”
Although he never considered lack of judicial experience to be an “automatic disqualifier” for a nominee,Sen. Orrin Hatch,R-Utah,said not having a judicial record makes it hard to determine what decisions Kagan will make on the Supreme Court.
Kagan,the U.S. solicitor general,has never been
a judge and has largely been involved with legal academia,becoming the first woman dean of Harvard Law School in 2003.
“The Senate,and the American people,need to know which kind of justice Ms. Kagan would be. Will the Constitution control her,or will she try to control the Constitution?” Hatch said.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley,R-Iowa,said the committee doesn't have any “substantial evidence” to demonstrate Kagan's ability to transition from a legal scholar to a jurist. He said much of that evidence will have to be gathered at this week's hearings.
“We can gain some insight from your work for President Clinton and Justice Thurgood Marshall,” Sen. Herb Kohl,D-Wis.,said. “But we have less evidence about what sort of judge you will be than on any nominee in recent memory. Your judicial philosophy is almost invisible to us.”
Kohl said the committee has no right to know how Kagan would decide cases,but it does have a right to understand what she thinks about issues that might come before the court.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein ,D-Calif.,called Kagan's lack of judicial experience “refreshing” and said she is “unquestionably qualified.”
“Over 170,000 documents have unmasked her as an even-handed legal scholar with a sterling reputation,” Feinstein said. “Each new set of documents makes it clearer that her views fall within the moderate,mainstream legal thinking in this country.”
Outside the hearing,people lined up to listen to the proceedings. Every few minutes,groups of spectators rotated through the seats not reserved for reporters or committee guests.
Protests against Kagan's confirmation took place outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. Randall Terry,president of OverturnRoe.com,dressed as the devil and led of a group of antiabortion protesters,including one man dressed in a chicken suit to complain that Republicans were “chicken” about challenging Kagan about her stand on abortion.
The hearing resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m.