kagan sworn in 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama celebrated Elena Kagan’s confirmation to
the Supreme Court on Friday with a White House reception in her honor, ahead of
her swearing-in on Saturday.
Obama said that during the confirmation
hearings this month, US senators “got a good sense of her judicial philosophy,
her commitment to the rule of law, her rich understanding of our Constitution –
and, of course, where she can be found on Christmas Day.”
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which elicited laughter from those at the reception, was to a response Kagan
gave Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) when asked where she had been on
Christmas Day last year, in connection with that day’s failed terrorist attack
“Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant,”
she had quipped.
During Friday’s reception, she emphasized the role her
parents played in helping her reach the Supreme Court, only the fourth women to
do so. She will be a precedentsetting third sitting Jewish
“Although my parents didn’t live to see this day, what I can
almost hear them saying... is that this appointment is not just an
honor,” she said. “Much more importantly, it is an obligation – an obligation to
protect and preserve the rule of law in this country; an obligation to uphold
the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution; and an
obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building
promises: equal justice under law.”
Members of the Jewish community
warmly welcomed her confirmation, which came in a 63-37 Senate vote on
“This is a gratifying day for the Jewish community, and as a
fellow Jewish person I am very proud to see her become the fourth woman to sit
on the Supreme Court,” New York Democrat Rep. Elliot Engel declared in a
statement shortly after Kagan’s confirmation.
He was joined by colleagues
and heads of Jewish organizations in applauding her confirmation.
Democrat save one approved Obama’s nominee, with five Republicans also backing
the former Harvard Law School dean.
Kagan, 50, who was the US
solicitor-general when she was nominated and had worked in the Clinton
administration, grew up in New York and clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall
after graduating from law school.
“Throughout her distinguished career as
solicitorgeneral, dean of Harvard Law School and as a legal scholar, Kagan has
exceeded in learning, teaching and implementing the rule of law,” B’nai B’rith
said in a statement.
“The grandchild of immigrants, Kagan will bring a
unique yet familiar history to the nation’s highest court.”
replaces retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the most liberal justices,
is not expected to significantly change the ideological make-up of the
But Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism, pointed out that the Supreme Court touches on key
issues including freedom of religion, freedom of speech and preserving civil
rights, and that “the appointment of any Supreme Court justice to a lifetime
position will directly influence federal law in these areas for
He noted that the Religious Action Center worked closely with
Kagan “on an array of religious freedom, civil rights and women’s rights issues”
while she worked at the Clinton White House.
“We found her to be
passionate in her commitment to constitutional rights and wise in her strategic
judgment,” Pelavin said. “We know that her wit, intellect and experience will
serve her well as she takes on the awesome responsibility of pursuing justice in
our nation’s highest court.”