July 1st, 2010
06:11 PM ET
8 years ago

Witnesses offer support, opposition to Kagan

Washington (CNN) - Former military members on Thursday slammed Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan over her handling of military recruiters on the Harvard campus when she was dean of the university's law school.

On the final day of the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing for Kagan, a total of 24 witnesses were scheduled to testify for and against President Barack Obama's pick to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

The 50-year old Kagan has come under criticism from Republican senators, who complained that she actively tried to block military recruiters from Harvard Law School when she was dean because of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay and lesbian service members.

"Dean Kagan's clearly unlawful actions estranged the campus," said former U.S. Army Capt. Flagg Youngblood. He called Kagan's actions "double dealing" and a "condescension to the American rule of law that harmed the interests of the military." Youngblood attended Yale University as an ROTC member, and is now director of military outreach for the conservative Young America's Foundation.

Capt. Pete Hegseth of the Army National Guard said Kagan "encouraged students to oppose and protest the presence of military recruiters on campus."

Kagan and the White House have strongly defended her actions, saying that while she opposed the military's policy, Kagan never kept recruiters off the university.

Kagan also supported other schools challenging a federal law - known as the Solomon Amendment - requiring that recruiters be given equal access or face the loss of federal funding. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law on March 6, 2006.

Just four months after taking the job as Harvard's dean, in October 2003, Kagan offered students her thoughts in a campus-wide e-mail, saying that to give recruiters equal access to the campus "causes me deep distress. I abhor the military's discriminatory recruitment policy." She called it "a profound wrong - a moral injustice of the first order."

Among the witnesses invited by the Senate committee's Democratic majority were two people who sued their employers, claiming age and sex discrimination on the job.

Lilly Ledbetter said she hoped Kagan would be a sympathetic ear to those who bring legitimate workplace suits.

"I learned who is on the Supreme Court makes all the difference," she said.

The former tire company manager alleged she was paid less than her male counterparts for equal work about two decades, but did not find out about the discrimination until she was about to retire. The high court in 2007 ruled against her, saying existing federal law did not allow such lawsuits to be filed so late. Most workers had 180 days to file a claim after the first discriminatory pay decision.

But Obama, in the first bill he signed after taking office in January 2009, enacted into law the Lily Ledbetter Act that nullified the high court decision and said every new paycheck received over the years based on a
discriminatory act - regardless of when the first discrimination occurred - would extend the statute of limitations 180 days.

"If one more person like [liberal] Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg or Justice Stevens were on the court," Ledbetter said, "then my case would have turned out differently," Ledbetter said.

Jack Gross lost his Supreme Court appeal last year, after he alleged he was a victim of age discrimination for being passed over for a promotion. He criticized the current conservative court for reading federal laws in a way that makes it more difficult for people like him to claim wrongdoing by employers.

Kagan faced a barrage of questions Wednesday, the third day of her confirmation hearing before the committee, but ended the day smiling and hugging supporters. Her part of the confirmation hearing ended Wednesday.

She spent much of Wednesday portraying herself as someone who would be an independent voice on the high court.

In keeping with the tradition of other recent high court nominees, the solicitor general repeatedly declined to indicate how she might rule if confirmed, leading one senator to bemoan what many observers now characterize as a confirmation process devoid of substance.

She told committee members that, if confirmed, she would not be influenced by her previous political positions in the Clinton administration and elsewhere.

"When you get on the bench [and] you put on the robe, your only master is the rule of law," she said, adding that she would be "independent and not favor any political party."

Democrats were generally effusive in their praise for Kagan. Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, called her answers "superb" and predicted she would be confirmed.

"I have appreciated not only your intellect, but also your good humor throughout," Leahy said in concluding the public questioning of Kagan, adding that she answered the senators' questions "more fully than any recent nominee."

Even conservative Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was impressed, telling Kagan that hers was the fourth confirmation hearing in which he has participated, "and I think it's been one of the best."

However, the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said he remained unsure of whether he would support Kagan's nomination when the panel votes.

If confirmed as expected by the 19-member committee and then the full Senate, Kagan would be the 112th Supreme Court justice. Her addition to the high court would mean the nine-member panel would include three women for the first time.

- CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.

Filed under: Elena Kagan • Supreme Court
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Augsbee

    I don't think it matters anymore, what we the people say matters not anymore, they could care less of our opinion, they'll do as they please.
    They don't care that she has no experience. In the whole country they couldn't find a Democrat Judge for the Supreme Court???

    July 1, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  2. Rob in MO

    As Dean of the Harvard Law School, she was enforcing University rules. Good for her. That's exactly what we expect a dean to do. These attacks are obviously politically motivated and completely unwarrented.

    July 1, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  3. Hugo

    Gee surprise, why do you think Obama nominated her?

    July 1, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  4. Republicans is smart in the head area

    Curious as to how many Harvard Law School attendees have ever even joined the Armed Forces. Guessing that "Dean Kagan's clearly unlawful actions" probably prevented them from signing up less that a half dozen people. If someone wants to join the military, they will generally seek the military out. It's not like some Harvard Law grad is thinking "Hmm I could make a bundle in private practice but ya know Sgt. Bilko and his trifold brochure have really made me want to defend the drunk miscreants in the Army brig," This is a non starter as are most of the Conservative arguments.

    July 1, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  5. Kate in SW Fla

    She is extremely qualified, certainly more qualified than either Thomas or Alito, and much smarter than either of them. She will be a great Justice!

    July 1, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |

    It always amuses me that the GOP's top Senator, Senator Sessions once appeared before this committee on the other side of the table and was turned down to become a federal judge. Pretty interesting that a man who was found not qualified to be a judge is now on that committee. I bet each and every judge they review eats his heart out so it's not surprising to hear hear his anger and resentment. So he is the best that the GOP has to offer?

    Vote NO in NOvember to the party of NO.

    July 1, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  7. all of america

    This is just another obama idealogical follower ,we all need to be suspicous of anybody that he picks, He wants to fill the w.H. and the supreme courts ,with everybody that has the same socialistic marxist, ideas. Sotomayor is a good example .

    July 1, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain

    Regarding Kagan's stance on military recruiting on campus:

    "Kagan and the White House have strongly defended her actions, saying that while she opposed the military's policy, Kagan never kept recruiters off the university."

    Sounds like she was just exercising her First Amendment rights. If she had actually kept the recruiters off the university, I'd have a problem.

    But she didn't – case closed.

    July 1, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  9. Future expat

    What Mr. Youngblood fails to mention (and what CNN could have uncovered with a modicum of investigation) is that Yale provided free transportation to ROTC training, and that the ROTC subsidized the entirety of Mr. Youngblood's Ivy League education.

    July 1, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  10. Matt

    Oppose. She's just saying what everyone want to hear so that she can mess up the Constitution for the next 40 years.

    Sotomeyer said everything they wanted to hear and then votes against the Second Amendment the first chance she had. Yes, she is beholden to Obama, but come on....

    July 1, 2010 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  11. oy vey az

    Hey Baby Boomers ! What's all this military fuss about. ?

    Didn't we do far worse during the 70's ?

    So if Afghanistan turns into another Viet Nam, who is going to march on Washington to stop the war ? The milk-toast kids of today ... I don't think so.

    July 1, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  12. mother and sister of soldiers

    Her very actions against military recruiters disqualifies her. We do not need another blleding liberal with no experience sitting in power in this country! Obama is a prime example of the damage an inexperienced individual can invoke upon a great country.

    July 1, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  13. southern cousin

    Kagan is another bad Obozo joke on America like the TARP, stimulus, immigration reform, health care reform. This inept, corrupt, union toady is a failure.

    July 1, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  14. Steve

    I think she will be a wonderful addition. I support her views and feel the military has no business on a college campus. They have recruiting offices that potential recruits can visit, and don't need to be interfering with institutions of higher education.

    July 1, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  15. Willy Brown

    She's nothing but a stump for the progressives.

    July 1, 2010 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  16. artraveler

    Well, a bunch of us didn't like Roberts either and they really did some good, didn't it. You lost the election and you don't get to pick another conservative for the hfghest court in the land.

    July 1, 2010 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  17. Jjohn

    I spent 31 years in uniform and retired in 1995 I don't think recruiters should be allowed on school grounds. This was a republicant issue and shouldn't be allowed. Recruiters have plenty of clients else where and don't need to be recruiting at universities.

    July 1, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I would like to know where Captain Youngblood has any real need to say anything. He wasn't at Harvard Law school unless there is something missing from this entry. There was no restriction of military personnel talking to the law students, was there?

    July 1, 2010 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |