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
12:52 PM ET

The buzz on Proposition 8 ruling

A federal judge in California struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, ruling that voter-approved Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution and handing supporters of gay rights a major victory in a case that both sides say is sure to wind up before the Supreme Court.

As soon as the ruling was handed down, iReporters, celebrities and politicians began to share their thoughts on the potentially landmark decision. Columnists and news and political organizations soon followed with opinions that varied from calling the ruling one of the biggest decisions in our lifetime to seeing it as a completely overreaching attempt at judicial activism.

Here's what they had to say:

'Unforgettable lesson'

"We strenuously hope that [U.S. District Judge Vaughn] Walker's decision will be upheld by the high court. But no matter what happens, the trial in San Francisco delivered an unforgettable lesson in what Proposition 8 and same-sex marriage really mean.

"From now on, it will be harder for opponents of same-sex unions to continue mouthing canards. The public as well as the courts have had an opportunity to hear the facts. The debate over same-sex marriage will never be quite the same again."
- Los Angeles Times editorial

'Discrimination, prejudice'

"Proposition 8 was based on discrimination, prejudice and religion. The Constitution protects rights of the individuals that often the majority would take away from the minority. That's why we don't vote on these issues."
- iReporter Cliff Olney of Watertown, New York

'Extreme judicial activism'

"Today's decision by a federal district judge in San Francisco striking down state constitutional protections for marriage and inventing a spurious federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage is an example of extreme judicial activism. Moreover, it is an affront to the millions of California voters who approved Proposition 8 in 2008 after months of vigorous public debate.

"Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The people of California, and the United States, have made clear in numerous ways that they have not consented to the redefinition of marriage. For the past two decades they have considered the arguments advanced by some for overturning marriage as it has been understood in our country. In state after state — 45 in all - they have chosen to reaffirm the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They have done so because they understand that establishing same-sex marriage would transform the institution into a set of private interests rather than buttress it as a multi-generational reality binding mothers, fathers and their children biologically, socially and legally."
- Chuck Donovan of the Heritage Foundation

iReport: What's your take? Tell us your thoughts on Proposition 8 ruling


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
10:38 AM ET

Court rules against Christian group in discrimination case

The Supreme Court has ruled against a Christian campus group that sued after a California law school denied it official recognition because the student organization limits its core membership to those who share its beliefs on faith and marriage.

At issue was the conflict between a public university's anti-discrimination policies and a private group's freedom of religion and association.

The 5-4 ruling was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was on the bench a day after her husband passed away.

The law school, wrote Ginsburg, "caught in the crossfire between a group's desire to exclude and students' demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership."

In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, "I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that today's decision is a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country." He was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.


June 28th, 2010
10:06 AM ET

Court rules for gun rights, strikes Chicago handgun ban

In another dramatic victory for firearm owners, the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional Chicago, Illinois' 28-year-old strict ban on handgun ownership, a potentially far-reaching case over the ability of state and local governments to enforce limits on weapons.

A 5-4 conservative majority of justices on Monday reiterated its two-year-old conclusion the Constitution gives individuals equal or greater power than states on the issue of possession of certain firearms for self-protection.

"It cannot be doubted that the right to bear arms was regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as states legislated in an evenhanded manner," wrote Justice Samuel Alito.

The court grounded that right in the due process section of the 14th Amendment. The justices, however, said local jurisdictions still retain the flexibility to preserve some "reasonable" gun-control measures currently in place nationwide.

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer predicated far-reaching implications. "Incorporating the right," he wrote, "may change the law in many of the 50 states. Read in the majority's favor, the historical evidence" for the decision "is at most ambiguous."

He was supported by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

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."


June 21st, 2010
01:59 PM ET

High court allows trial on drug safety to proceed

A lawsuit brought by a breast cancer patient against a major drug company will go forward after the Supreme Court refused to intervene in the dispute.

The justices without comment Monday turned aside an appeal from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, maker of drugs for hormone replacement therapy.


June 21st, 2010
10:36 AM ET

High Court upholds terror law after free speech challenge

A divided Supreme Court has ruled the government's power to criminalize "material support" of a terrorist organization is constitutionally permissible.

The 6-3 ruling preserves a key provision of the 2001 Patriot Act, amid claims it threatens the free-speech rights of Americans who would assist non-violent activities of certain militant and terror groups.

At issue was whether the federal law allows prosecution of those with knowledge of "any service, training, expert advice or assistance" to a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the U.S. government.

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Filed under: Supreme Court • Terrorism
June 14th, 2010
10:28 AM ET

Justices reject case of Canadian alleging U.S. approved torture

The Supreme Court has turned away a lawsuit filed against U.S. officials by a Canadian man who was seized in New York, accused of having terrorism connections and sent to Syria, where he claims he was tortured.

At issue was whether Maher Arar could continue to press his claim for damages in federal court, and whether top U.S. law enforcement officials had immunity. Despite being a foreign national, he said he had a constitutional "due process" right to press his claims in federal court.

The justices Monday did not explain whey they rejected the case.

May 24th, 2010
11:13 AM ET

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Texas death row case

A Texas death row inmate will get a hearing before the Supreme Court over his claims of "actual innocence" and demands authorities conduct more thorough DNA testing of evidence gathered at the crime scene. At issue is whether capital inmates have a basic federal civil right to have forensic evidence reviewed late in the appeal process.


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Filed under: Supreme 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 19th, 2010
10:16 AM ET

On the Radar: Thai protests, primaries, juvenile sentences

A Thai anti-government protester runs beside a burning shop Wednesday in Bangkok.

Thai protests - The deadly standoff between the Thai government and protesters reached a boiling point Wednesday as security forces surged into Bangkok's Lumpini Park, with at least five people dead in the largest offensive on protesters since demonstrations began. Residents in the capital took to rooftops and anxiously watched news reports, while some fled with precious keepsakes as they feared a mini-civil war was coming. For those who decided to stay and are now trapped in Bangkok, there is only one thing left to do: hunker down.

Midterm election primaries - Voters sent mixed signals in Tuesday's primaries in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. They tossed out a longtime senator, picked a Tea Party-backed candidate and forced a Democratic senator into a runoff.  CNN's political analysts give their take on what it all means and how it may affect midterm elections in November.


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