lena Kagan was sworn in Saturday as the 112th Justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Kagan, previously the Obama administration's solicitor general, is the fourth female justice in the court's history, and the second (after Justice Sonia Sotomayor) named to the court by President Obama. Court watchers expect Kagan to be a consensus-building moderate who, since she's replacing the liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, won't radically alter the balance of the court. If that's so, how will Kagan make an impact? (Watch a Newsweek reporter call Kagan "open-minded")
1. On immigration, Kagan will make a case for federal power
Elena Kagan may cut her teeth on the fight over Arizona's tough law against illegal immigrants, says David G. Savage in the Chicago Tribune. It will certainly be one of the big issues that will define her early years on the court. And it's no mystery how Kagan will vote. As a former executive-branch lawyer, she's likely to say the federal government — not Arizona — is the authority on immigration.
"Brewing legal disputes could define Kagan's early tenure"
2. The court will be more conservative without Stevens
By everyone's estimation, Elena Kagan is less liberal than John Paul Stevens, says Glenn Greenwald in Salon. So liberals are trying to convince themselves that the moderate Kagan will "begin magically hypnotizing [conservative] Justice Kennedy" in ways Stevens could not. But that's a liberal "fantasy." Replacing the "most emphatic" liberal with a moderate will move the court "further to the Right — not radically, but marginally."
"The alleged political benefits of moderation"
3. Kagan will change the gender chemistry of the court
With Kagan on the bench, says Mark Sherman at the Associated Press, the nine-strong court will have three women for the first time in history. Courts with one-third female judges tend to "significantly" vote in favor of people claiming sex discrimination, according to one academic study. Now that an appeal of the overturning of California's gay marriage ban is on its way to the Supreme Court, Kagan's influence could be put to the test.
"3 women on high court: Historic but impact unclear"
4. The White House is about to get a lot more powerful
Judging from Kagan's "writing and other action," says Andrew Kreig at Connecticut Watchdog, she'll help create an Executive Branch "vastly more powerful than the one the Framers created." The Constitution emphasizes "the vital role of Congress in checking executive power," but Kagan, a friend of President Obama and one-time aide to Bill Clinton, has a dangerously "expansionist view of presidential power," especially when it comes to civil rights.
"What's next after Elena Kagan's confirmation"
5. It's too early to predict Kagan's influence
Nobody knows how Kagan will vote, say the editors of the Baltimore Sun, and that's "probably a good thing." During her confirmation hearings, Kagan followed the example of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, and said the Constitution and legal precedent — not a political agenda — would inform her work on the court. That "prudent reserve" should be welcomed. Our justice system promises us a fair hearing from unbiased judges when we appear in court. On this evidence, Justice Kagan will "act accordingly."
"Justice Elena Kagan"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How my boyfriend and I learned to live on one income
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Affirmative action is doomed. Here's what progressives should do about it.
- Why the poor's investment of choice is so alarming
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why conservatives see rural America as the 'real' America
- Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
- Why China's Communist Party is headed for collapse
- Why Texas Republicans may want to cool the anti-Obama land-grab talk
- How to make perfect fried rice in 6 easy steps
Subscribe to the Week