December 12th, 2011
10:52 AM ET

Justices accept Arizona's appeal over controversial immigration law

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Arizona can enforce its controversial immigration law, over the strong objections of the Obama administration.

The justices made the announcement in a brief order Monday.

Federal courts had blocked key parts of the state's Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known as SB 1070. Arizona had argued illegal immigration was creating financial hardships and safety concerns for its residents and that the federal government has long failed to control the problem.

The administration has countered immigration issues are under its exclusive authority and that state "interference" would only make matters worse.

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Filed under: Elena Kagan • Immigration • Supreme Court
October 29th, 2010
10:55 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Ozzy Osbourne

The British heavy metal icon and former Black Sabbath frontman had a good reason for having his full genome sequenced and analyzed: He wanted to know why he was still alive.

“I was curious,” he wrote in a column this week for London’s The Sunday Times. "Given the swimming pools of booze I've guzzled over the years—not to mention all of the cocaine, morphine, sleeping pills, cough syrup, LSD, Rohypnol … you name it - there's really no plausible medical reason why I should still be alive. Maybe my DNA could say why."

The St. Louis, Missouri-based Cofactor Genomics sequenced his genome and Knome Inc. analyzed the data, putting the Prince of Darkness in the same company as DNA co-discoverer James Watson and Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, who also have submitted to the process, Scientific American reported.

People are increasing using genome analysis “to uncover information about their ancestral histories, impending health risks and disorders of potential progeny,” the magazine reported in June.

“Despite the completion of the generalized human genome draft a decade ago, connections between diseases and genetic variations have proved to be evermore complex and elusive,” it said.

Knome co-founder Jorge Conde said Osbourne was interested in his ancestry and in recently being diagnosed with a Parkinson’s-like condition. The test revealed some Neanderthal lineage as well as “novel variants” in genes associated with addiction and metabolism.

The company didn’t divulge the full results of Osbourne’s test. The rocker and his wife, Sharon, are appearing at TEDMED 2010 in San Diego, California, on Friday to discuss the results. His speech is titled, “What will the unveiling of a full Osbourne genome reveal?”

A Halloween treat, no doubt.


August 7th, 2010
02:14 PM ET

Kagan takes oath of office

Elena Kagan was sworn in Saturday afternoon as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath at the Supreme Court building in Washington. Kagan beamed as a small invited audience cheered loudly.

The Supreme Court will meet in a special session on October 1 to hold an investiture ceremony for Kagan, Roberts said.

Kagan, the former solicitor general of the United States and former dean of the Harvard School of Law, is the fourth woman ever to serve on the nation's highest court.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Kagan on Thursday with a 63-37 vote.

She replaces retired Justice John Paul Stevens, leaving the court's liberal-conservative balance unchanged.

Filed under: Elena Kagan • Politics • Supreme Court
August 7th, 2010
10:02 AM ET

On the Radar: Kagan, Afghanistan, space, storms

Elena Kagan will take two oaths of office Saturday.

Elena Kagan becomes the fourth woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court when she takes the oath of office at 2:15 p.m. Saturday. With Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor already on the bench, it will mark the first time three women have served on the court simultaneously. The ceremony will be carried live on CNN television and

Six American medical missionaries are reported to be among 10 people stopped on a road and killed by Taliban militants in northeastern Afghanistan. Two Afghans, a Briton and a German also were reported among the victims. The CNN Wire continues to develop the story.

Two astronauts are scheduled to step outside the International Space Station on Saturday to fix an ammonia pump that set off alarms a few days ago. It will be the first stroll into space for NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson.

Weather watchers will be keeping an eye on two tropical storms. Tropical Storm Estelle intensified in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico on Friday evening with maximum sustained winds of up to 50 mph, but it is moving away from land, forecasters said. In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Colin was a little disorganized with maximum sustained winds of about 45 mph. It is expected to pass near or over Bermuda on Saturday night.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Elena Kagan • On the Radar • Space • Weather
August 5th, 2010
04:47 PM ET

Senate approves Kagan for high court

Solicitor General Elena Kagan was easily confirmed Thursday as the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, completing the 50-year-old native New Yorker's climb to the peak of the American legal profession.

The 63-37 vote was more than enough to blunt any possibility of a last-minute Republican delay or filibuster. Opposition during three days of Senate floor debate was relatively subdued.

Kagan is set to begin a lifetime position as the nation's 112th justice. Administration officials anticipate she will sworn into office Saturday, when she takes the traditional constitutional and judicial oaths. She will then assume her court duties immediately.

Her brisk confirmation was a political victory for President Barack Obama - who placed Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the high court last year - and for Senate Democrats.

Kagan was the administration's solicitor general when Obama nominated her on May 10 to replace retired Justice John Paul Stevens. She will become the current court's youngest member and third woman.


August 5th, 2010
09:44 AM ET

Kagan expected to be confirmed to the Supreme Court

Elena Kagan is expected to be confirmed as the 112th justice to the Supreme Court Thursday - and could be sworn into her judicial
post by week's end.

On Wednesday, the influential Mexican American Legal Defense Fund decided not to endorse the 50-year-old solicitor general and to remain "neutral."

"This rare decision comes because Kagan's record as an attorney is too ambiguous for MALDEF to make an informed determination about her current knowledge and potential understanding of Latino legal concerns," the group's president, Thomas Saenz, wrote in a commentary written for the online news site the Huffington Post.


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Filed under: Elena Kagan • Politics • Supreme Court
July 20th, 2010
12:43 PM ET

Judiciary Committee approves Kagan

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to become the nation's fourth female Supreme Court justice, setting up a final confirmation vote by the Senate.

Filed under: Elena Kagan • Supreme Court
July 1st, 2010
08:48 AM ET

On the Radar: Hurricane Alex, Gulf oil disaster, Kagan

Hurricane Alex –Heavy rains pelting northeastern Mexico left at least one person dead and thousands more in shelters as Hurricane Alex moved inland, Mexican emergency officials said early Thursday. Alex made landfall along the northeast Mexican coastline late Wednesday as a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of about 100 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported. Forecasters downgraded it to a tropical storm early Thursday morning and said it would continue to weaken as it moved inland. Residents on both sides of the border braced for additional flooding and tornadoes as the storm moved west with 85 mph maximum sustained winds. You can follow the storm's path here.

Gulf oil disaster - Even though tropical storm Alex is headed away from the site of the BP oil spill, it is affecting containment and collection efforts on multiple fronts, Coast Guard officials say. A massive oil skimmer, however, has arrived in the Gulf of Mexico. Coast Guard officials will conduct an aerial survey to assess the storm's impact Thursday, Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft said.


June 30th, 2010
09:30 PM ET

Kagan nomination: Highlights from the hearings

[Updated at 5:40 p.m.]

Testimony concludes for the day until tomorrow afternoon, following a six-hour recess while the body of Senator Robert Byrd lies in repose in the Senate chamber.

[Updated at 4:45 p.m.]

In an exchange with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan learns that the first woman to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee came after the Anita Hill hearings in 1991.

[Updated at 4:25 p.m.]

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan sidesteps Senator Tom Coburn's question of whether she believes Americans have a "fundamental, pre-existing" right to bear arms, choosing instead to say she would follow the law.

"To be honest with you, I don't have a view of what are natural rights, independent of the Constitution, and my job as a justice will be to enforce and defend the Constitution and other laws of the United States," she says. 

"I'm talking about Elena Kagan. What do you believe? Are there inalienable rights for us? Do you believe that?" Coburn presses.

"I think that the question of what I believe as to what people's right are, outside the Constitution of the laws, you should not want me to act, in any way, on the basis of such belief," she says.

"I think you should want me to act on the basis of the law."

Watch the exchange on Elena Kagan's stance on gun ownership

[Updated at 4:15 p.m.]

Kagan says she believes that it is important for Americans to have confidence in the Supreme Court.

"I think the welfare of the country is certainly best served if the American people have confidence in the Supreme Court," she says.

[Updated at 4:05 p.m.]

Senator Coburn of Oklahoma returns to the topic of Miguel Estrada, a constitutional law attorney and Kagan's seatmate at Harvard, who wrote a letter endorsing her.

President Bush nominated Estrada to the D.C. Court of Appeals, but Senate Democrats used a filibuster to prevent his final nomination on the Senate floor. Kagan says she did not write a letter of endorsement for Estrada's nomination because she was not asked to. She also says that she would have voted for him if she were on the committee overseeing his confirmation.

"I said he is a great lawyer and great human being and I think he'd be a great judge," Kagan says.

"If you were sitting up here, you would've voted for him?"  Coburn presses.

"Yes," she says.


June 30th, 2010
09:02 AM ET

On the Radar: Hurricane Alex, Kagan nomination hearing

Hurricane Alex - Hurricane Alex churned through the western Gulf of Mexico overnight, slowly picking up steam as officials in northeastern Mexico and southern Texas made preparations Wednesday. The Category 1 storm, which became the first June hurricane to form on the Atlantic side of the United States since 1995, is expected to make landfall Wednesday evening.

President Obama issued a federal emergency declaration for Texas ahead of Alex's expected arrival, the White House said Tuesday night. A hurricane warning was issued for the Gulf Coast from Baffin Bay, Texas, to La Cruz, Mexico.

Kagan nomination hearing - Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will face another round of questioning from senators Wednesday after mounting a spirited defense against her critics the day before. By late Wednesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee could go into closed session where Kagan's FBI background check is likely to be discussed, as has been the practice in past hearings.


June 29th, 2010
04:57 PM ET

What we've learned about Elena Kagan

After a long day of questioning by senators hoping to find out more about Solicitor General Elena Kagan, there's one thing they now know for sure: No matter how they try to get her to discuss her judicial philosophy, there's no hard answer. For Kagan, it's all on a case-by-case basis.

At least, that's the sense Kagan conveyed today over and over again when asked about her political views and how they might influence her role on the Supreme Court.

Asked about issues including abortion, military recruitment, "don't ask, don't tell," executive power and other hot-button issues, Kagan always asserted that the law was the law, precedent was binding, and that's how she'd plan on ruling if any of those issues fell before her if her nomination was confirmed. She often answered questions with phrases indicating she felt she would bring no bias to the bench.


June 29th, 2010
04:50 PM ET

Kagan hearings: Nominee answers big, tough questions

[Updated at 4:50 p.m.]

The hearing takes on a congenial tone as Senator Lindsey Graham continues to question nominee Elena Kagan, this time, about where she was when the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing attack occurred.

"Senator Graham, that is an undecided legal issue, which well, I suppose I should ask exactly what you mean by that. I'm assuming that the question you mean is whether a person who was apprehended in the United States is... "

"No I just asked you where you were at on Christmas," he interrupts. 

"You know, like all Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant," she responds, provoking laughter from the crowd.

[Updated at 4:06 p.m.]

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina begins his questioning of nominee Elena Kagan by asking if she agrees with the assessment that she is "a progressive in the mold of Obama himself."

"I've been a Democrat all my life," she answers. "That's what my political views are."

"Would you consider your political views progressive?" he presses.

"My political views are generally progressive," she says.

Graham also asks her about D.C. attorney Miguel Estrada, Kagan's "seatmate"  at Harvard law school who submitted a letter endorsing her nomination.

President Bush nominated Estrada to the D.C. Court of Appeals, but Senate Democrats used a filibuster to prevent his final nomination on the Senate floor. 

Kagan praises Estrada, who was part of the team that successfully presented then-Governor Bush’s position to the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore.

"He's qualified to serve as an appellate judge, he's qualified to serve as a Supreme Court Justice," she says in response to Graham's question of whether he was qualified to serve as an appellate judge.

"Your stock just went up with me," Graham replies, eliciting chuckles from the gallery.


June 28th, 2010
09:11 AM ET

On the Radar: Robert Byrd dies, Kagan hearings, Gulf oil

Sen. Robert Byrd passed away at the age of 92.

Robert Byrd dies - West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, the self-educated son of a coal miner who became the longest-serving member of Congress, died early Monday at age 92, the senator's office said. Byrd, a nine-term Democrat, was known as a master of the chamber's often-arcane rules and as the self-proclaimed "champion of the Constitution," a jealous guardian of congressional power.

As news of Byrd's passing echoes through Washington, and as his family plans his funeral, colleagues are remembering Byrd for his humble nature, fighting spirit and determination.

Senator Byrd: 'I love the Senate' Video | Modest roots shaped Byrd's life Video


Filed under: BP • Elena Kagan • Gulf Coast Oil Spill • On the Radar • Politics • Robert Byrd • Supreme Court
June 25th, 2010
02:33 PM ET

White House confident of high court nominee days before hearings

Top White House officials expressed confidence Friday that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will earn the respect and votes of senators during her confirmation hearings, which begin next week.

In a conference call with reporters, senior political aide David Axelrod dismissed suggestions Kagan's lack of judicial experience and political service in two Democratic administrations will hurt her chances to sit on the high court.

"We know it's an extremely polarized political climate, and we are preparing to make a vigorous case," for her confirmation, he said. "We are prepared and she is certainly prepared to respond. And we anticipate once the hearings are done, she'll take her seat on the court."


May 19th, 2010
10:17 AM ET

Leahy: Kagan nomination hearings to begin June 28

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings June 28 to consider the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, the panel's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said Thursday.

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Filed under: Elena Kagan • Supreme Court
May 12th, 2010
09:17 PM ET

WebPulse: BP and Supreme Court nominee dominate

The Gulf Coast oil spill continues to dominate the news as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, revealed that the oil company privately told the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight that the well failed a key pressure test just hours before it exploded on April 20.

People still want to know more about Solicitor General Elena Kagan, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court as she began making rounds to the offices of key senators on the Hill amid criticism from Republicans.

Filed under: BP • Elena Kagan • Gulf Coast Oil Spill • Supreme Court • Web Pulse
May 12th, 2010
09:46 AM ET

Kagan to meet with senators amid Republican criticism

As Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan plans to visit Capitol Hill and meet with senators Wednesday, one Republican lawmaker reiterated that he will oppose her nomination, just as he did 15 months ago when she was nominated for her current post as solicitor general.


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Filed under: Elena Kagan • Gay and lesbian • Politics • Supreme Court
May 10th, 2010
06:23 PM ET

GOP focus: Kagan's stance on gays in the military

Top GOP senators wasted no time Monday putting the controversy over gays in the military at the center of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's confirmation fight.

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Filed under: Elena Kagan • Supreme Court • U.S. • Uncategorized
May 10th, 2010
09:59 AM ET

On the Radar: A justice nominated, a legend gone

Elena Kagan is expected to be nominated to the Supreme Court.

High court nominee:  President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court on Monday, picking her to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. If confirmed, Kagan would be the third woman on the nine-justice bench and the fourth in the history of the high court. Her confirmation also would mean that the Supreme Court would have no Protestant justices for the first time in its history. Kagan, who is Jewish, would join six Catholic and two Jewish justices.

Dirty water: Plans to use a four-story containment dome to stop oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico have hit a snag. So what's next? Maybe a plan to try to plug the leak with trash, such as shredded tires. A top BP executive said Monday that the company is working "parallel paths" to fix an oil well blowout that is dumping 210,000 gallons of crude a day into the Gulf of Mexico.


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Filed under: Alabama • Elena Kagan • Gulf Coast Oil Spill economics • Iraq • Justice • Louisiana • On the Radar • Supreme Court
May 10th, 2010
07:36 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Elena Kagan

On Monday, President Obama is expected to name the solicitor general as his nominee to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Kagan, 50, would be the third woman on the nine-justice bench and the fourth in the history of the court.

Kagan grew up in a Jewish household in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She went on to Princeton University and Harvard Law School, where she later served as dean. She was an associate White House counsel in the Clinton administration.

She served as a law clerk for federal judge Abner Mikva, and then for Thurgood Marshall on the high court. In her 1986 job application to Marshall, she rather matter-of-factly told the civil rights pioneer, "I would be honored to serve as your clerk."

The nation's first African-American justice affectionately called the diminutive Kagan "Shorty."


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