Elena Kagan

Elena Kagan on Illegal Wiretapping

From Elena Kagan’s first comments about Cheney’s illegal wiretapping program yesterday (at 2:10), it sounds almost like she’d vote for rule of law in the al-Haramain case (though the case is probably in the gray area of cases on which she should recuse herself).

DiFi: And we have just had a case. It came–by a District Court Judge in California, as of March 31 of this year, the al-Haramain case, and Senator Specter and I have discussed this. It’s my understanding that what the judge did here was find the Terrorist Surveillance Program illegal, and essentially say that the plaintiff was entitled to damages from the government. So I guess the question might be whether that case goes up to the Supreme Court or not. But clearly the judge here dealt with something that was outside of the scope of law–which was the Terrorist Surveillance Program–and made a finding that it was, in fact, illegal.

Kagan: I believe that is what the judge said in that case and that case is still pending of course and might come before the Court. I think that the appropriate analysis to use with respect to that case or many others in this area would be the Youngstown analysis which makes very important what Congress has done. Where Congress authorizes the President, it’s one thing, where Congress has said nothing, it’s still another, where Congress has specifically barred the activity in question, you’ve got a much much higher bar for the President to jump over in order to find the action Constitutional.

After all, as DiFi with her historic concern for FISA being the “exclusive means” to conduct wiretapping seems intent to remind Kagan,  warrantless wiretapping was specifically barred.

But maybe not. Continue reading

Elena Kagan and Lindsey Graham on the Global Battlefield, the Sequel

This exchange is one of the most telling from the entire Kagan hearing today (note; we’ve edited this exchange for length; here’s the full exchange; also, while you’re watching, keep an eye on the body language of the bearded man sitting behind Kagan, White House Counsel Bob Bauer).

It’s striking, first of all, because Lindsey Graham plays the role of the cross-examiner and his delivery largely overwhelms Kagan. As they go on, Kagan manages to reclaim her ground–on the issue of whether or not the entire world is the battlefield of the war on terror. But even there, the difference in her various answers suggests troubling things about her stance on habeas.

After prompting Kagan to deliver the standard justification for detaining enemy combatants during war and rewarding her with a condescending compliment, Lindsey starts by getting Kagan to agree that the war on terror will never end.

Lindsey: [Speaking of her rote recitation of the basis for indefinite detention] That’s a good summary. The problem with this war is that there will never be a definable end to hostilities, will there?

Kagan: [Nodding] That is exactly the problem, Senator.

What a breath-taking exchange! Rather than challenge Lindsey on his slippery definition (referring to “hostilities” rather than war), rather than challenging him on the premise, Kagan simply nods in agreement. One minority party Senator and the Solicitor General sat in a hearing today and decided between them the state of hostilities under which the Executive Branch has assumed war-like powers to fight terrorism will never end.

The police state will continue forever.

Perhaps sensing the danger, Kagan notes that the Hamdi decision envisions such an indefinite war might require a different approach to detention, perhaps a review to ensure a detainee’s continuing dangerousness. This thrusts Kagan not into the realm of legal review, but the policy disputes between the White House and Lindsey (again, the watchful eye of Bob Bauer here is worth noting).

Our excerpt jumps here (after Lindsey makes his pitch for just such a program).

Lindsey comes back by getting Kagan to personally endorse the stance she embraced in her Solicitor General role, arguing against habeas rights for Bagram detainees.

Lindsey: You argued against expanding habeas rights to Bagram detainees held in Afghanistan, is that correct?

Kagan: I did, Senator Graham.

Lindsey: As a matter of fact, you won.

Kagan: [pushing back with apparent discomfort] Uh, in the DC Circuit–

Lindsey: [interrupting] And you probably won’t be able to hear that case if it comes to the Supreme Court, will you?

Kagan: Well, that’s correct, and the reason–

Lindsey: [interrupting again] Well, that’s good cause then we can talk openly about it.

Kagan: [laughing] Uh, if I could just say, the Solicitor General only signs her name to briefs in the Supreme Court, authorizes appeal, but does not sign Appellate briefs, but I determined that I should be the Counsel of Record on that brief because I felt that the United States’ interests were so strong in that case based on what the Department of Defense told our office.

Lindsey: Right. I want every conservative legal scholar and commentator to know that you did an excellent job in my view of representing the United States in that case.

Lindsey then gets her to reiterate that she signed that brief because of the seriousness of the issues for the government. He interrupts again:

Lindsey: Well, let me read a quote: “The Federal Courts should not become the vehicle by which the Executive is forced to choose between two intolerable options: submitting to intrusive and harmful discovery, or releasing a dangerous detainee.” Do you stand by that statement?

Kagan: Senator Graham, can I ask whether that statement comes from that brief?

Lindsey: Yes it does.

Kagan: No, I uh, that statement is my best understanding of the very significant interests of the United States government in that case, which we tried forcefully to present to the Court and as you said before, the DC Circuit–a very mixed panel of the DC Circuit–upheld our argument.

Lindsey: Right. You also said “The Courts of the United States have never entertained habeas lawsuits filed by enemy forces detained in war zones. If Courts are ever to take that radical step, they should do so only with explicit blessing by statute.” You stand by that?

Kagan: Anything that is in that brief I stand by as the appropriate position of the United States government.

Lindsey: [while she is speaking] Fair enough.

Throughout this exchange, Lindsey basically had Kagan cornered, not wanting to disavow a document she had signed in unusual circumstances, but seemingly recognizing the risk of adopting these harsh statements as her own. Continue reading

Does Kagan Think the 2001 Afghan AUMF Authorized Iraq?

I’m going to assume that this was just a misstatement on Elena Kagan’s part, but it’s one that I hope she corrects before her confirmation hearings are done. In response to a question from DiFi, Kagan suggested that SCOTUS’ decision in the Hamdi case–which relied on the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force passed after 9/11–applied to Iraq and Afghanistan.

DiFi: Could you elaborate on the scope of the President’s authority to detain individuals under the law of armed conflict?

Kagan: Senator Feinstein, the conversation that Senator Graham and I had–and I believe in that same hearing you asked a similar question–starts with the Hamdi case, where the Supreme Court said that the AUMF–the authorization for the use military force–which is the statute that applies to our conflict with Iraq and Afghanistan, that the AUMF includes detention authority, detention authority, and Hamdi said that the law of war typically grants detention authority in a wartime situation and interpreted the AUMF consistent with that law of war understanding.

Hamdi, of course, doesn’t even mention Iraq. And while Bush did conduct detention in Iraq in relation to that separate war, those detention operations fell under different guidelines even according to the radical people running the Bush Administration. More troubling, however, is the possibility that Kagan has internalized the false claims of many on the right that Iraq had anything at all to do with the 2001 AUMF, which authorized action only against those with ties to 9/11.

Again, I’m hoping this was just a misstatement, one which Kagan will correct before these hearings are done.

The NY Times, Elena Kagan and Batson

The New York Times has an article up that will appear in the front section of Wednesday’s print edition decrying the fact that racial selection and exclusion still maintain in jury selection for trials in the South.

Arguments like these were used for years to keep blacks off juries in the segregationist South, systematically denying justice to black defendants and victims. But today, the practice of excluding blacks and other minorities from Southern juries remains widespread and, according to defense lawyers and a new study by the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit human rights and legal services organization in Montgomery, Ala., largely unchecked.
…..
While jury makeup varies widely by jurisdiction, the organization, which studied eight Southern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee — found areas in all of them where significant problems persist. In Alabama, courts have found racially discriminatory jury selection in 25 death penalty cases since 1987, and there are counties where more than 75 percent of black jury pool members have been struck in death penalty cases.
…..
The Equal Justice Initiative study argues that jury diversity “is especially critical because the other decision-making roles in the criminal justice system are held mostly by people who are white.” In the eight Southern states the study examined, more than 93 percent of the district attorneys are white. In Arkansas and Tennessee, all of them are white.

Race based selection and exclusion in the formation and empanelment of juries is prohibited, and rightly so. It is considered improper, unethical and a violation of duty to the court, bar and public. And rightfully so. There mere inference of it, as is made clear by the numerous instances discussed in the NYT article can bring strong questions of propriety, especially for representatives of the people, i.e. prosecutors. And, as the Equal Justice Initiative points out, the systematic exclusion of people of color from public leadership roles, like prosecutors, is just as problematic and disgraceful.

It is a righteous thing the New York Times has emphasized and drawn attention to the depressing report by the Equal Justice Initiative on racial exclusion in the law. Which makes it all the more distressful that the famed Gray Lady of the Times never evinced the same concern about analogous inferences which could just as easily be drawn about Elena Kagan’s record of faculty hiring at Harvard Law School.

First raised by Duke Law Professor Guy Uriel Charles, and noted by other bloggers like Glenn Greenwald and yours truly (but never substantively addressed or reported by the New York Times or other major media), Kagan has a record that puts the examples in the New York Times article on Southern jury biases to shame. From Professor Charles:

But what about people of color? How could she have brokered a deal that permitted the hiring of conservatives but resulted in the hiring of only white faculty? Moreover, of the 32 new hires, only six seven were women. So, she hired 25 white men, six white women, and one Asian American woman. Please do not tell me that there were not enough qualified women and people of color. That’s a racist and sexist statement. It cannot be the case that there was not a single qualified black, Latino or Native-American legal academic that would qualify for tenure at Harvard Law School during Elena Kagan’s tenure. To believe otherwise is to harbor troubling racist Continue reading

Search and Replace: Sexually Dangerous Person, Terrorist

Just as a little thought experiment, let’s look how some passages from SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan’s successful argument in U.S. v. Comstock–in which SCOTUS just voted 7-2 to affirm the federal government’s authority to indefinitely detain sex offenders who are mentally ill–appear when we replace the term “sexually dangerous person” with “terrorist.” (See Adam B’s post on the decision for a good overview of the decision.)

KAGAN: The Federal Government has mentally ill, sexually dangerous persons [terrorists] in its custody. It knows that those persons, if released, will commit serious sexual [terrorist] offenses;

[snip]

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But the likelihood is that the person will stay in Federal custody?

GENERAL KAGAN: I think that that’s fair, that the likelihood is that the person will stay in Federal custody until such time as a court finds that the reasons for that custody have lapsed.

[snip]

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Right. I understand your argument to be that this power is necessary and proper, given the fact that the person is in Federal custody for some other reason, criminal conviction [enemy combatant designation].

GENERAL KAGAN: That has been the government’s case throughout this litigation, that it is always depended on the fact of Federal custody, on the fact that this person has entered the criminal justice system [been designated an enemy combatant],

[snip]

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, why doesn’t the Federal Government’s authority to have custody because of the criminal justice system [enemy combatant designation] end when the criminal justice system is exhausted if he can’t be charged? In other words, when the sentence is done?

GENERAL KAGAN: Because the Federal Government has a responsibility to ensure that release of the people it has in its custody is done responsibly, and is done in such a way –

Continue reading

The Questions I Should Have Asked

When you live in flyover country and have the opportunity to appear on cable, it lacks some of the niceties of the big city: no green room, no professional makeup artist, and sometimes you have to drive yourself to the studio through Detroit’s version of rush hour traffic (yeah, I know, no one works in this city anymore, but we’re on the rebound).

Which means you don’t get the same opportunity to compose your thoughts.

So here’s what I should have said when asked what two questions I’d ask Elena Kagan in a confirmation hearing:

  1. Do you think the President should be able to order the assassination of an American citizen with Predator drones with no due process?
  2. What sort of disclosure does your former employer Goldman Sachs owe its clients when it makes a massive bet that millions of Americans will lose their homes?

State Secrets Non-Compromise Compromise Architect to Replace Kagan

The great news just keeps coming.

Remember the “new” state secrets policy DOJ announced last year? It basically amounted to a promise that the Attorney General would review any invocation of state secrets to make sure such an invocation was really really secret rather than just sort of secret but really embarrassing, along with a promise that an Inspector General (but not a court) would investigate in case of wrong-doing (at the time, some of the existing state secrets invocations had already been investigated by IGs). Here’s how I described the “new” policy when it was announced.

What the “new” state secrets policy appears designed to do is buy time and limit the legal battlefields on which the Administration tries to stave off a CIPA-like process.

Legislatively, it appears the “new” policy (and presumably some pressure on Leahy directly) has convinced Leahy, at least, to hold off on moving his legislation forward. He seems to be content to wait and see how this new policy plays out. Nadler, on the other hand, seems to want to push forward with legislation (so is Russ Feingold, but he’s not in the same position to push forward Senate legislation as Nadler is). So at the very least, Holder’s “new” policy will buy the Administration time before Congress tries to reel in executive power.

Then there’s Horn. Word is that Holder will use the “new” policy to withdraw the state secrets claim in one case, and by all appearances that one case will be Horn (I don’t know whether that means they will try to settle Horn, or whether they’ll just move forward with what amounts to a CIPA-like process without a state secrets claim behind it.)

Now of the three cases in question (Horn, al-Haramain, and Jeppesen), Horn is the one that was the biggest slam dunk legally to support a CIPA-like process (because of the fraud involved and the Circuit Court’s earlier limitation on the state secrets claim). It’s the one in which the Bush Administration’s claim to state secrets was most bogus. And it’s the least risky one to settle or litigate.

By withdrawing the claim of state secrets in Horn (if that is indeed what will happen), the Administration will avoid having the DC Circuit joining the 9th in supporting some kind of CIPA-process in state secrets, while still giving the Administration hopes of dismissing Jeppesen and al-Haramain based on state secrets.

In other words, this is all a big bureaucratic ploy to try to keep the Bush Administration’s illegal actions on extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping secret.

Well, the guy Obama plans to replace Kagan with is the architect of this “smoke and mirrors” policy.

The White House is poised to name Don Verrilli, an associate White House counsel, as solicitor general after Elena Kagan is confirmed to the Supreme Court. Verrilli joined the Obama administration as an associate deputy attorney general, where he helped his close friend, Attorney General Eric Holder, craft the Justice Department’s new state secrets doctrine guidelines.

[snip]

Verrillii’s trial balloon appointment as SG will be viewed suspiciously by civil libertarians for his authorial role in the state secrets drama and for his record of fighting on behalf of industry against tech entrepreneurs.  But he’s got the trust of Holder, Bauer, and President Obama.

I can’t wait to see what Obama has in store next to whittle away at the rule of law.

Elena Kagan Will Be The Most Unqualified Justice In History

NBC News is reporting Elena Kagan is Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the liberal lion, Justice John Paul Stevens. Kagan is a remarkably poor choice.The stunning lack of curiosity and involvement in the important legal issues of her age, not to mention the law itself, and remarkable absence of compelling written work and record on the part of Elena Kagan has been previously covered in detail by Glenn Greenwald.

I have previously explained the total lack of any experience – ever – of any kind – on Kagan’s part in the court system of the United States. Kagan has never set foot as an attorney of record into a trial courtroom in the United States, not even a small claims justice court; nor for that matter, any appellate court save for the literally handful of spoon fed cases she suddenly worked on as Solicitor General. Kagan has never been a judge in any courtroom, of any court, in the United States. Quite frankly, there is not even any evidence Elena Kagan has sat as a judge for a law school moot court exercise. I have had paralegals and secretaries with better experience than this. Does a nominee for the Supreme Court have to be Gerry Spence, Pat Fitzgerald or David Boies? No, but it would be nice if they had the passion, curiosity and commitment to their profession to go to court at least once. Never has there been a United States Supreme Court Justice with such a complete lack of involvement in the court system. Never.

Duke Law Professor Guy-Uriel Charles has damningly demonstrated a Kagan record of lily white hiring, and corresponding shunning of people of color, at Harvard Law under her guidance that, if considered under the seminal Batson standard of prejudice, would have netted Kagan a sanction from the court and a potential misconduct referral to the appropriate bar authority.

Curiously, and very notably, the only pushback by an Obama Administration, who has consistently gone beyond the call of duty in protecting and bucking up a patently poor nominee in Elena Kagan, has been on the racial hiring component exposed by Professor Charles. Here are the “talking points” memo the Obama Administration sent around to its acolytes and stenographic mouthpieces in the press and internet ether to counter the substantive criticism of Elena Kagan.

Notice anything missing in the official Obama White House talking points? I do. They are solely focused on the racial exclusion charge (and here is the response eating their lunch on that). Did you see what is NOT responded to, or addressed, in any way, shape or form by the White House? If you guessed “Elena Kagan’s complete lack of any record whatsoever of participation or accomplishment in the legal process of the United States”, take a bow, you are Continue reading

A Concurrence In The Case Against Elena Kagan

Last week Glenn Greenwald penned a solid case delineating why current Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who is at the top of the purported Obama “short list”, would make a poor nominee to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Despite the hard truth in Greenwald’s facts and arguments, he has been blistered by both the Obama Administration and their apologists and fanboys. The Administration has, as reported by Sam Stein, even enlisted a hit team of loyalist flaks and supporters to discredit Greenwald and his article.

The reason the White House finds itself in the position of fighting off its own base in the first place is because Greenwald is dead on the money with his analysis, criticism and conclusion that Kagan is a poor nominee; and especially considering it is Stevens’ critical seat she would be filling. Glenn’s facts and argument speak for themselves, but there is an additional area neither he, nor anyone else, has substantively touched on which militates against Kagan. Elena Kagan is so terminally inexperienced with the American court system as to be unqualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

I appeared in three different courthouses last Friday. Which is two more than Elena Kagan has appeared in as either an attorney or judge during her entire legal career. Her first appearance in the Supreme Court as Solicitor General, little more than six months ago, was the first time she had substantively appeared in any court. Ever. You can still count her total number of live court experiences (all appellate arguments) on one hand. The complete absence of experience and seasoning showed in several key areas in Kagan’s uneven oral argument presentations, and the claim Kagan is some kind of wonderful talent who necessarily would bring diverse Supreme Court justices together exposed as unsupported fawning fantasy.

The American trial court system is literally the backbone of our rule of law; they are where the public substantively interacts with the law and their law is meted out, as well as being where the foundation and record for appellate cases and controversies are made and perfected. How is it appropriate to be considering a woman for a position that will impact evidentiary, procedural and substantive trial processes – for every trial court in the country; federal, state and local – when she has never been in one? There are forty Justices in the long and glorious history of the Supreme Court who had no prior judicial experience; there are none I am aware of who had the nearly complete absence of any practical legal court experience as an attorney, much less as a judge, such as is the case with Elena Kagan. Continue reading

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