By Leigh Jones
Judges, attorneys and scholars attending a litigation conference at Duke University School of Law took a break from the jam-packed agenda to weigh in on Elena Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
James Holderman, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, appeared torn about commenting on Kagan’s nomination, since U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Judge Diane Wood, considered a contender for the nomination, is a fellow federal judge in Illinois.
Still, he predicted that Kagan will make an “excellent justice.” Earlier this month, Kagan spoke at the 7th Circuit Bar Association annual meeting, which Holderman attended. “She gave a wonderful tribute to [Justice] John Paul Stevens,” he said.
Others at the conference were less excited about Kagan’s nomination. “I have a bias,” said Rebecca Kourlis, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System and a former justice of the Supreme Court of Colorado. “I regret that he [President Barack Obama] didn’t choose someone with trial experience,” Kourlis said. “I am delighted that he chose a woman.”
About 200 legal professionals are attending the 2010 Litigation Conference, a two-day event that is focusing on reforming the rules of civil litigation. The main sponsor is the U.S. Judicial Conference’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rules.
Judge Jon Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit, avoided commenting on the nomination. “I’m really running late,” he said, after participating on a panel. “I don’t even know her.”
New York University School of Law professor Arthur Miller was more vocal. “There’s no question about her intellect,” he said. “No appointment fills every bill. Elena has the benefit of having powerful friends. That’s not illegal.”