Elena Kagan said today she would have supported the nomination of her friend Miguel Estrada to a federal appellate judgeship, if only Estrada had asked.
Kagan, under questioning from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), noted that she wrote letters of support for two of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. They were Michael McConnell, who was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and Peter Keisler, who was nominated but not confirmed to the D.C. Circuit.
“If I didn’t with Miguel, it’s because he didn’t ask me to do so,” Kagan said.
The letter may be forthcoming now. Earlier in the day, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also brought up Estrada’s nomination and asked Kagan whether she would write a letter endorsing him. Kagan said she would do so, and she praised Estrada’s qualifications to be an appellate judge or a Supreme Court justice.
Estrada’s nomination, also to the D.C. Circuit, failed after Democrats blocked several attempts to bring it to a vote on the Senate floor. They criticized his views on civil rights and asked to review confidential records from his time in the Solicitor General’s Office, though they had another reason to oppose him, as well: Estrada was viewed as a potential future nominee to the Supreme Court, and he could have been the first Hispanic nominee.
Now back at the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as a partner, Estrada is co-chair of the firm’s appellate practice.
The subject of his filibustered nomination came up because Estrada and Kagan are longtime friends. They met as students at Harvard Law School, where they were assigned to sit next to each other during their first year, and Estrada has endorsed Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
Cornyn asked whether Kagan did the same for Estrada after his nomination fight began in 2001. “Did you ever speak out publicly or talk to him privately about his nomination and the fact that he was filibustered seven times?” he asked.
“Senator Cornyn, I would have done whatever he asked me to do, because he’s a great friend and a great person,” Kagan replied, before noting the letters she wrote for McConnell and Keisler.
Kagan did not mention one other similarity between her and Estrada: She was nominated to the D.C. Circuit, too, in 1999, but her nomination failed after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), then the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, declined to schedule a hearing.