Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski voices opposition to Elena Kagan for Supreme Court justice

FAIRBANKS — Sen. Lisa Murkowski is one of the first senators to say she will oppose Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination.

In a statement released to media outlets Friday, Murkowski, a Republican, commended Kagan’s teaching ability, but said that Kagan’s overall responses to the questions senators have posed to her in the past week were “clever and graceful but not terribly revealing and in many cases evasive.”

Murkowski, who opposed Kagan’s nomination for the solicitor general position she now holds, said one of her biggest concerns was Kagan’s apparent lack of familiarity with Second Amendment cases, such as the court’s 2008 ruling that overturned the Washington, D.C., ban on handguns.

“I would expect more from a scholar of American constitutional law,” Murkowski said. “ ... She said little more than that she will uphold the precedents and declined to express her personal views on the scope of protections provided by the Second Amendment.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, has already predicted that Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate, but a half-dozen Republicans, including Murkowski, have said they will oppose her.

Murkowski said she was disappointed in Kagan’s answer about a hypothetical law that would require Americans to eat three fruits and vegetables each day. Kagan told senators that she thought it would be dumb law, but analyzed it under Congress’ authority to regulate commerce.

“Ms. Kagan never considered whether such a law would violate liberty or privacy interests found elsewhere in the Constitution,” Murkowski said. “Ms. Kagan appeared to duck the question and maybe that is because she thought it went to whether the individual mandate in the health care reform bill is constitutional.”

Finally, Murkowski said she was concerned that if Kagan is approved to sit on the court, she will be the sixth justice from the Northeast United States, and only three law schools, Harvard, Yale and Columbia, will be represented on the Supreme Court.

“While I welcome the fact that this administration has substantially increased the representation of women on the high court, it is of greater significance to me that the administration has not increased the representation of people from the West or from rural backgrounds on the court,” said Murkowski, who also opposed President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.

Julie Hasquest, spokeswoman for Sen. Mark Begich, said Begich will review Kagan’s testimony before deciding whether or not to support her nomination.

After meeting with Kagan last month, Begich said Kagan expressed a support for Second Amendment rights and was sympathetic toward Alaskans affected by the Exxon Valdez spill and the two-decade legal battle to receive compensation.

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Source: By Chris Freiberg. Published July 03, 2010