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Thursday, May 27, 2010

O'Connor, Scalia Say Kagan Doesn't Need Judicial Experience

I find the process by which we pick our Supreme Court nominees somewhat strange.  In what is likely the most important decision which any President might make (Supreme Court judges serve for life and, more often than not, their term far outlives the term of the President which selected them) and one which should not be a politically based decision but based on merits, we now see a process turned on its head.

One point of contention for Elena Kagan has been whether judicial service is necessary.  Hopefully these latest remarks quell that issue.

Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor says that lack of judicial experience should not derail Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court.

O'Connor tells ABC's "Good Morning America" that historically more than a third of the justices came to the court without first serving as judges, adding "I think it's fine. Just fine."

The first woman to serve on the Supreme Court says that Kagan seems "very well qualified academically." She says that going through the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings, however, is a "difficult, unpleasant experience" for a nominee, no matter who that is.

Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court's most notorious conservative, likewise says he likes that Kagan hasn't served on the bench, ABC News reports.

"When I first came to the Supreme Court, three of my colleagues had never been a federal judge," said Scalia, who joined the Court in 1986 after being nominated by President Reagan. "William Rehnquist came to the Bench from the Office of Legal Counsel. Byron White was Deputy Attorney General. And Lewis Powell who was a private lawyer in Richmond and had been president of the American Bar Association."

"Currently, there is nobody on the Court who has not served as a judge --indeed, as a federal judge -- all nine of us," he continued. ". . . I am happy to see that this latest nominee is not a federal judge - and not a judge at all."

Scalia's remarks came during a lecture he gave at Catholic University's law school, held at the U.S. Courthouse in Washington, D.C.'s ceremonial courtroom.

Kagan returns to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet privately with a half dozen senators. Her nomination hearings could begin as early as late June.

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