Solicitor General Elena Kagan called her nomination to the Supreme Court “the honor of a lifetime” during her opening remarks Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Kagan told Senators in her confirmation hearing that she hoped to mirror the “integrity, humility and independence” of her predecessor, Justice John Paul Stevens, if she is confirmed to the high court.
“If given this honor, I hope I will approach each case with his trademark care and consideration. That means listening to each party with a mind as open as his to learning and persuasion and striving as conscientiously as he has to render impartial justice,” she said.
The solicitor general said she owed “a debt of gratitude” to retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for paving the way for her and “so many other women in my generation” by becoming the first women to serve on the Supreme Court.
“Their pioneering lives have created boundless possibilities for women in the law,” Kagan said.
She described the experiences that led to her seeking the high court slot: She served as a clerk under Justice Thurgood Marshall, whom she hailed for “his great struggle for racial justice,” and she later became solicitor general, which required her to argue cases before the Supreme Court. She said that the Supreme Court is “a wondrous institution” but that it must also be “a modest one” in order to be properly deferential to the public.
Kagan said the only pledge she can make about her role on the court is that she “will listen hard, to every party before the court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.”
The solicitor general also took a moment to honor Sen. Robert Byrd, who passed away early Monday morning. She said that while she did not know the West Virginia Democrat, she knew of his “abiding reverence for our Constitution.”
The fact that Byrd kept a copy of the Constitution with him at all times is “a moving reminder to each of us who serves in government of the ideals we must seek to fulfill,” she said.