Newly confirmed Solicitor General Elena Kagan has laid out her views on the death penalty, guns, gay marriage and detainee due process rights — all issues certain to resurface should she emerge as a future Barack Obama Supreme Court pick.
The solicitor general, who conducts the government’s cases before the Supreme Court, is not typically a high-profile public figure, but Kagan’s answers to a series of Senate committee questions reveal a cautious, centrist view on the hottest legal issues of the day. Kagan’s answers — like her position that gays don't have a constitutional right to marry — may upset liberals, yet her positions hew closely to recent Supreme Court precedent.
The Senate confirmed Kagan on a 61-31 vote on Thursday evening. Despite weighing in on fiercely contested issues, Kagan says the solicitor general “would make decisions of this kind based not on personal views but on determinate federal interests.” Kagan is rumored to be on the shortlist for the Supreme Court should a vacancy occur.
In a 21-page letter sent this week to Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kagan said she is not “morally opposed” to the death penalty, which she calls constitutional. “I would as strongly defend federal death penalty statutes as I would defend any other kind of federal legislation,” she said.
She says that foreign law can be used to interpret the U.S. Constitution in “some circumstances,” like the Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. But she believes that the federal spying laws are constitutional and suggests that only on the rarest of circumstances could a president circumvent Congress to conduct warrantless spying.
Regarding gun laws, Kagan says she has “no reason to believe that the court’s analysis was faulty” in the 2008 Supreme Court case striking down the District of Columbia’s strict gun-control laws. And she added that her office would likely “continue to defend” against constitutional challenges on various federal regulations concerning firearms. ...