Opinion

Commentary: Time to confirm Elena Kagan for Supreme Court

Now that at least five Republican senators have said they will vote for her, Elena Kagan's confirmation to become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is virtually assured. The 50-year-old Ms. Kagan, nominated in early May by President Obama, will become only the fourth woman out of 111 justices to sit on the court.

Given her strong credentials as a legal scholar and the intelligence, wit and grace she displayed during her hearings, Ms. Kagan fully deserves confirmation. The former Harvard Law School dean and Justice Department solicitor general demonstrated her knowledge of the law on a variety of complicated issues under questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but was careful to avoid pre-judging any issues or displaying an ideological predisposition.

That bring us to our first point. It has become conventional wisdom to disparage confirmation hearings as a farce because nominees clam up when asked to explain where they stand on specific issues. That misses the point. The public has a vested interest in finding out whether nominees are capable of wrestling with tough legal issues -- without stating their positions in a way that would discredit their objectivity once on the court. Ms. Kagan aced this part of the hearings.

Secondly, different standards should not be applied to nominees on the basis of politics. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican, said all should be judged on a uniform standard: "I find that Ms. Kagan has met that standard with the strong intellect, respect for the rule of law and understanding of the important but limited role of the Supreme Court that I believe is required of any justice."

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