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Opening day of the Elena Kagan Senate confirmation hearing

In her opening remarks to the Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Kagan vows to work impartially. The U.S. solicitor general and former dean of Harvard Law avoids taking any specific positions on contentious social issues, promising to 'listen hard' and 'work hard,' if confirmed.

June 28, 2010

"The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people," she will say, according to excerpts of her opening statement released by the White House on Monday morning.

The statement is typical of recent nominees to the high court, as the notion of "activist judges" has become anathema in contemporary politics. Kagan will say that the role of the Supreme Court is to safeguard the law through "a commitment to even-handedness, principle and restraint."

Kagan, the U.S. solicitor general, will also portray herself as someone who can bridge the ideological divide, using her work as dean of the Harvard Law school as testimony.

"No one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom," she will say. "I've learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide. I've learned that we come closest to getting things right when we approach every person and every issue with an open mind. And I've learned the value of a habit that Justice Stevens wrote about more than 50 years ago -- of 'understanding before disagreeing.'"

Kagan's statement also invokes the statement inscribed on the Supreme Court building: "Equal Justice Under Law," which she says commands of judges an "even-handedness and impartiality."

Kagan's confirmation hearing is scheduled to start within the hour. Stay tuned for regular updates as the Judiciary Committee considers President Obama's second nomination to the Supreme Court.

-- Michael Memoli in Washington

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