Day One Recap: CBC Has Questions for Kagan on Race, Criminal Justice

Day One Recap: CBC Has Questions for Kagan on Race, Criminal Justice

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The Congressional Black Caucus has submitted inquiries that lawmakers want U.S. Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan to answer during her confirmation hearings, asking for clarification on issues related to race and criminal justice.

Kagan gave an opening statement vowing to “respect the will of Congress” during a 3 1/2 session Monday, the start of four days of confirmation hearings. Kagan’s questioning will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, with outside witnesses on Thursday. Kagan was nominated by President Barack Obama but it is the Senate that ultimately has the power to confirm her. If she is confirmed, she will replace retiring Chief Justice John Paul Stevens.

On Monday, GOP and Democrat lawmakers painted two very different of Kagan, with the New York Times noting, “Democrats described her as a brilliant thinker…’with unprecedented practical experience'” while Republicans “spotlighted her lack of judicial experience and sought to portray her as a legal neophyte and a Democratic operative.”

The CBC noted Kagan “possesses outstanding academic and professional credentials and it applauds President Obama for nominating a person who understands the real-world consequences of judicial decisions.”

But that doesn’t stop the CBC’s pointed questions for Kagan. In a letter addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the CBC brought attention to specific instances:

  • In a 1997 memo to President Bill Clinton, Kagan supported reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine to 10:1. Does Kagan support eliminating the sentencing disparity?
  • Regarding affirmative action, would Kagan ever allow race-based remedies? Would she apply the “mend it-don’t end it” affirmative policy to race-neutral remedies only?
  • Kagan apparently opposed the formation of a commission on race during President Clinton’s second term, the CBC said. Why?
  • How does Kagan explain why only one minority (an Asian American) and seven women were hired to Harvard Law School’s faculty while she was dean? Of the 11 faculty members on the non-tenure track, only three minorities (two black and one Indian) and only two women were hired.
  • How many minority candidates who turned down faculty position offers were African-American during Kagan’s role as dean?

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