Sen. Hatch Announces Opposition to Kagan

As the Elena Kagan Supreme Court hearings wind down today, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has announced his opposition to the nomination.

Hatch released a lengthy statement putting forth his reasons for rejecting the nominee ranging from Kagan’s lack of judicial experience to her hostility to the military.  

Left unsaid was the role his moderate Utah colleague Sen. Bob Bennett’s defeat in his Republican primary earlier this year may have played as part of the decision-making process.  Utah is one of the most conservative states in the union.

Hatch voted to confirm hard core liberal Justice Sonya Sotomayor to the court just last year.

The vote for cloture on the nomination will be brought to the Senate after the 4th of July break, leaving senators over a week in their districts to hear from their constituents back home.  For the nominee to move to the floor for a vote by the full Senate, 60 votes are required.  

With the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) earlier this week, the Democrat caucus has 58 votes, including independent Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.).  Republican votes will be required to bring Kagan’s nomination to the floor.

Sen. Hatch’s statement in opposition of Elena Kagan’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court:

 “I have carefully examined Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s record, actively participated in the entire Judiciary Committee hearing, and considered the views of supporters and opponents from Utah and across the country.  Qualifications for judicial service include both legal experience and, more importantly, the appropriate judicial philosophy.  The law must control the judge; the judge must not control the law.  I have concluded that, based on evidence rather than blind faith, General Kagan regrettably does not meet this standard and that, therefore, I cannot support her appointment.  

“Supreme Court Justices who, like General Kagan, had no prior judicial experience did have an average of 21 years in private legal practice.  General Kagan has two.  The fact that her experience is instead academic and political only magnifies my emphasis on judicial philosophy as the most important qualification for judicial service.  

“Over nearly 25 years, General Kagan has endorsed, and praised those who endorse, an activist judicial philosophy.  I was surprised when she encouraged us at the hearing simply to discard or ignore certain parts of her record.  I am unable to do that.  I also cannot ignore disturbing situations in which it appears that her personal or political views drove her legal views.  She promoted the Clinton administration’s extreme position on abortion, including the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion.  

As Dean of Harvard Law School, she blocked the access by military recruiters that federal law requires.  And she took legal positions on important issues such as freedom of speech that could undermine the liberties of all Americans.  

“General Kagan is a good person, a skilled political lawyer, a brilliant scholar, and was a fine law school dean.  I like her personally and I supported her to be Solicitor General.  But applying the standard I have always used for judicial nominees, I cannot support her appointment to the Supreme Court.”