U.S. News

Senator says Kagan critical of Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan criticized the court she is seeking to join during a private meeting on Thursday with Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, the senator told reporters.

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan boards an elevator during her day on Capitol Hill, May 12, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Specter said Kagan agreed with him that the court takes “too few cases” and erred this year in its landmark 5-4 ruling that struck down campaign finance limits. As U.S. solicitor general, Kagan represented the government in that case and unsuccessfully sought to keep those limits.

“She said she felt that the court was not sufficiently deferential to Congress,” in the case, known as Citizens United, Specter said.

President Barack Obama, who nominated Kagan on Monday, denounced the ruling as having opened the gates to special interest money in U.S. politics and took the rare step of criticizing it in his State of the Union speech in January.

Specter said Kagan also reiterated her criticism that the Senate confirmation process yields little information about Supreme Court nominees and that one justice was less than forthcoming during his or her confirmation hearing.

Specter declined to identify the justice, but said it was not Chief Justice John Roberts, who Specter himself has complained was less than candid during his 2005 hearing.

Specter voted against Kagan’s confirmation for solicitor general before bolting the Republican Party last year. He complained at the time that her answers to his questions were inadequate. His ‘no’ vote has become an issue in his bid to win the Democratic nomination next week for re-election.

Specter emerged from Thursday’s meeting with Kagan saying she “was very forthcoming during our discussion” and calling her “a good candidate.” But he said he would withhold judgment on whether to support the nomination until after her Senate confirmation hearing, expected to be in June or July.

Kagan, seen as a moderate, appears headed toward bipartisan approval. She met with Specter during a second day of courtesy visits with members of the Senate.

Specter said Kagan reiterated her earlier criticism, made in 1995, of the confirmation process as “not telling very much about the nominee. She stood by the word ‘charade.’”

“And she identified a specific justice who she thought was not appropriate in responses,” Specter said.

On other matters, Specter said Kagan “was enthusiastic” about calls by him and others to televise court proceedings and “seemed receptive but noncommittal” about his bid to allow Congress to direct the court to consider specific cases.

If confirmed, Kagan would replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, a leading liberal on the nine-member court.

Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by Vicki Allen