June 27, 2010 |
For Elena Kagan, it was a moment of sheer triumph. Presiding over a gala dinner three years ago among the Italianate arches of the art museum at Harvard University, a beaming Kagan praised the honoree, Bruce Wasserstein, then the chairman of famed Wall Street bank Lazard Ltd. Wasserstein's donations had helped Kagan break ground on a massive, state-of-the-art facility at the law school, where she was the dean. The construction cranes rising above Harvard Law's campus today serve as a testament to Kagan's prowess; she spearheaded a fundraising campaign that raked in almost half a billion dollars for the school.
July 12, 2012 |
There are (at least) two reasons to pass a law: to address a practical problem and to send a message. A bill by Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) to criminalize lying about military service “for tangible benefit or personal gain” seems to fall into the second category. The Webb bill is a response to last month's Supreme Court decision striking down the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to lie about having received military honors. The decision overturnd the conviction of Xavier Alvarez, a former member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District governing board in eastern Los Angeles County who falsely claimed that he held the congressional Medal of Honor. (That was only one of his whoppers.
March 21, 2012 |
The Supreme Court, noting that virtually all criminal cases are settled through plea deals, has ruled for the first time that defendants have a right to competent advice from a lawyer on whether to accept an offer to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. At a minimum, the court said, the defendant must be told of any formal offers from a prosecutor that would result in a favorable deal. The pair of 5-4 decisions handed down Wednesday could have a broad impact on the nation's criminal justice system because of the importance of plea deals.
July 2, 2010 |
Supporters and critics of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan argued their case before the Senate Judiciary Committee late Thursday, but one of her most formidable opponents weighed in earlier in the day. The National Rifle Assn., Washington's powerful gun lobby, came out against her confirmation, saying Kagan "has repeatedly demonstrated a clear hostility to the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution." As a domestic policy advisor for President Clinton in the 1990s, Kagan was part of an administration that battled the NRA on issues such as assault weapons, the importation of semiautomatic rifles, trigger locks and gun show sales.
April 5, 2011 |
The Supreme Court restored a death sentence for a Van Nuys murderer Monday, despite evidence that he suffered severe brain damage as a child. Scott Pinholster, who stabbed two men to death in a drug robbery gone bad in Tarzana in 1982, is an epileptic who suffered blows to the head in two auto accidents. His mother backed her car into him when he was 2, and his head slammed into the windshield during an accident a year or two later. By age 10, he was having outbursts at school. At 11, he was sent to a mental institution.
May 27, 2010 |
In her first weeks as dean of Harvard Law School in 2003, Elena Kagan put the warring sides of the gun rights debate in a room and let them fight it out. The debate between gun control advocates and 2nd Amendment purists was sponsored by the law school's target shooting club, and Kagan showed her support by moderating the exchange. But her own views on gun rights went unaired. With her Supreme Court confirmation pending, those views have become of extreme interest to pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Assn.
May 12, 2010 |
If confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan will bring greater diversity to the court by adding a third woman. What she will not bring is educational diversity. Her confirmation will leave the court entirely composed of former law students at either Harvard or Yale. The decision of President Obama to select a nominee from one of these two schools is particularly disappointing as a replacement for Justice John Paul Stevens — an iconic figure on the court who was also its only graduate from an alternative institution (Northwestern)
May 11, 2010 |
The White House during President Clinton's second term was a combustible, ambitious place. While to the public it appeared that the chief executive was spending most of his time embroiled in scandal, a small group of staffers worked behind the scenes to pursue an aggressive policy agenda. Elena Kagan was one of them. She had come to the Clinton domestic policy shop in 1997 after serving as an administration lawyer. By the time she left two years later, she had put her stamp on the office, a unit that took on tobacco and gun industries, advocated campaign finance reform, backed affirmative action and worked to preserve abortion rights.
May 12, 2010 |
Ruth from Brooklyn, Sonia from the Bronx and now Elena from Manhattan? If President Obama gets his way, the Supreme Court will have three women justices for the first time. But the focus on this historic moment for women in the law has obscured another defining trait shared by this trio — all were raised not far from the No. 2 subway line that connects those three New York City boroughs. (The first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, grew up in the wilds of Arizona.) However much a young girl may be pitied by non-New Yorkers for having to come of age in this crowded, sharp-elbowed, grasping city of show-offs, it can also condition her to compete and shine in a male-dominated world like the law. Apparently finding a seat on a subway is decent training for finding a seat on the highest court in the land.
May 1, 2009 |
Justice David H. Souter, a New Hampshire Republican who became a key liberal vote on the Supreme Court, reportedly plans to retire this summer, clearing the way for President Obama to make his first nomination to the high court. Since the court has only one woman among its nine justices, most observers have predicted that Obama will select a woman for the first court opening.