At the Kagan Hearings: the Americans Watching

Regardless of politics, witnessing a Supreme Court confirmation is a bit of history.  There is seating available for those members of the public who want to observe the process firsthand, and many take advantage of the opportunity.

Jeane Beno, a schoolteacher from California, is one of those decided to come watch Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings Wednesday.  Beno was spending several weeks of her summer in the Virginia-D.C. area and began listening to the hearings on the radio.  

“[I] got really interested in them and I realized, wow, I could actually go and see them,” Beno said.

She said getting a pass “wasn’t bad at all” and got one about 30 minutes before being seated in the area  reserved for the public in the back of the Senate hearing room.  

David Lawrance, who moved to D.C. from Oregon, said he and his friends were coming down to the National Mall, saw the line of the confirmation hearings, and decided to join.  He’s read a bit of Kagan’s biography but said he hasn’t done much research. He said he’s not against her nomination, but he’s not strongly for it yet, either.

“She seems highly qualified,” Lawrance said, though he added that so far, there really didn’t seem much to judge her by.

Beno said she’s happy that Obama has the chance to appoint two justices and the hearings were “a great thing to be a part of and experience firsthand.”  

Both Lawrance and Beno said they didn’t follow Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings closely last year.

Beno does think she’ll follow the hearings more closely in the future, and Lawrance said he’ll definitely check out more New York Times articles on the situation – something he did do last year for Sotomayor.

“Being in D.C. makes you so much more interested in the political process,” Beno said.

Note: I also spoke with a young woman originally from Illinois who is now an intern in a judge’s office and a law student at American University. “There’s nothing out there about her [Kagan]…she was just kind of a wild card to me,” was her opinion after catching a few minutes of the hearing before one of the recesses.  She also wasn’t surprised by Kagan’s responses during the hearings. “I think everybody always wants to hear them say more, but I mean, she’s not the first nominee that’s done this, so nobody’s going to really come out with a really strong stance on anything at this point.”