Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) has told Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan what issues he plans to raise at her confirmation hearing next month: compensation for victims of the Holocaust and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as warrantless wiretapping.
Specter, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, built a national profile with his questioning of previous Supreme Court picks, including failed nominee Robert Bork. Because Specter lost his state’s Democratic primary this month, Kagan’s confirmation hearing will be his last.
He has been circumspect so far on whether he will support Kagan. He voted against her confirmation as solicitor general but has said he’s open to voting for confirmation this time.
In a letter to Kagan dated May 25, Specter raised three issues that, while complicated in their details, involve cases that are also charged with emotion. “I write to notify you of the topics I intend to cover at your upcoming confirmation hearing with respect to these and related cases,” the letter reads.
One case addressed the ability of Holocaust victims and their heirs to collect on unpaid World War II-era insurance policies. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit dismissed those claims this year, citing executive-branch policy and a Supreme Court precedent from 2003.
Another raised claims by victims of 9/11 against Saudi Arabia and several Saudi princes. The 2nd Circuit dismissed those claims in 2008, citing sovereign immunity, and the Supreme Court, at Kagan’s urging in her role as solicitor general, declined to hear the case. (The case has also been in the news recently because one of the lawyers who defended Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud was Bryan Cave partner James Cole, whom President Barack Obama has nominated for deputy attorney general.)
Finally, Specter wrote that he intends to ask Kagan whether she would have voted to hear an appeal of a 2007 ruling from the 6th Circuit. In that case, the circuit panel voted 2-1 that plaintiffs suing over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program lacked standing.
Read the three-page letter by clicking here (PDF).