Where does she stand?
Q: In appointing a new Supreme Court Justice to replace John Paul Stevens, President Obama was seeking someone who could provide intellectual and personal leadership of the liberal block. His gamble in nominating Elena Kagan is bringing in someone from outside the 'priesthood' of appeals-court judges. What are the advantages and disadvantages of selecting a leader with non-traditional qualifications?
Actually, Elena Kagan is not a non-traditional nominee: the list of Supreme Court justices who had not previously served as a federal judge is quite lengthy, including many of our most noted justices; Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Hughes, Brandeis, and, more recently, O'Connor.
There is however a substantial downside to having a nominee who has been neither a judge nor an elected official, and that is a lack of familiarity with the nominee's views on some very important matters, including most importantly, the extent and limits of presidential power. This is not a minor concern and places a great burden on the Senate to ensure that the nominee's views are consistent with constitutional constraints on executive authority.
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