Elena Kagan had never argued in an appellate court prior to her confirmation as solicitor general. She apparently has enjoyed it.
In her opening remarks at her confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court, Kagan spoke today for one of the few times publicly about her time as solicitor general. She said she had been challenged by the justices, and she heaped praise on them for their thoroughness in questioning lawyers at oral argument.
“In no other place I know is the strength of a person’s position so tested and the quality of a person’s analysis so deeply probed. No matter who the lawyer or who the party, the Court relentlessly hones in on the merits of every claim and its support in law and precedent,” she said.
Kagan has never been a judge, so it’s impossible to know how relentless she would be if she is confirmed. As solicitor general, she has had an easy banter with the justices and drawn praise from some other advocates. She’s also made some missteps, as The National Law Journal reported in May.
In her 15 months on the job, Kagan has argued six cases, winning three and losing two. The sixth was later dismissed as improvidently granted.
She told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the experience has strengthened her belief in the Court. “I always come away from my arguments at the Court with a renewed appreciation of the commitment of each justice to reason and principle — a commitment that defines what it means to live in a nation under law,” Kagan said.