The Justice Department has confirmed reports that Solicitor General Elena Kagan will not argue before the Supreme Court during its next argument cycle starting April 20, which is the final set of arguments for the current term. That means she won't be making her first argument before the Court until next term, which begins Oct. 5.
When we wrote in January about Kagan's lack of appellate experience, veteran advocate Andrew Frey of Mayer Brown suggested she should not feel obliged to argue a case this spring, so soon after her confirmation. After she was confirmed by the Senate on March 19, however, reliable sources indicated Kagan was planning to argue April 29 in the high-profile Voting Rights Act case Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But now it appears Kagan is taking the go-slow approach, and Deputy SG Neal Katyal will argue the voting rights case.
"She only arrived in late March, and all the cases had already been assigned" to other lawyers in the office, said Beverley Lumpkin, a Justice Department spokeswoman. "There is a lot to do in setting up her office, and it seemed like the best thing to do was to wait."
Others confirm that Kagan, the former dean of Harvard Law School, is taking steps to familiarize herself with all aspects of her new position. Last week, she participated in discussions with lawyers for both sides in Federal Insurance Company v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an effort by survivors and insurers of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to win compensation from Saudi Arabia and other Saudi entities. On Feb. 23, the Supreme Court invited the solicitor general to file a brief expressing the government's views before the Court decides whether to grant review in the case. Both sides want the SG to support their position, and it is common for deputies and other lawyers in the SG's office to hear pitches from the adversaries -- but less common for the solicitor general himself or herself to participate.