By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau
Elena Kagan is likely to be confirmed as United States Supreme Court justice and seems qualified for the post, according to three area lawyers.
Kagan, the nation's solicitor general and a former dean of Harvard Law School, is President Barack Obama's choice to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
``I think she'll be fine, but I was a little disappointed that he didn't pick someone more progressive,'' Delhi lawyer Tom Schimmerling said Monday. ``The court has become so conservative in recent years that personally, I was disappointed he didn't select someone to balance that out. But given the highly partisan nature of what's been going on in the country, he may have felt it would be better to have one less war to fight.''
As a judicial centrist, Kagan, 50, is likely to win some Republican support as the Senate holds hearings on her nomination, he said.
``I'm sure they'll find something they don't like about her, but I think she'll make it,'' Schimmerling said.
Cooperstown lawyer Robert Poulson said he was heartened by Obama's choice to replace Stevens, a member of the court's liberal wing in recent years.
``I'm glad he didn't pick someone from the left wing, and I think it may be a good thing that she hasn't been a judge before,'' said Poulson. ``I've been in a lot of courthouses around the country, and more and more I see two sets of elevators, one that's for judges only and one for the rest of us. That doesn't engender a lot of confidence that they know what's going on with the rest of us."
In recent years, Supreme Court justices have been elevated from other judicial posts, but decades ago this was less common, Poulson noted.
``Actually, I was a little surprised at the shock that some expressed that he would pick a non-judge,'' he said.
Oneonta lawyer William Schebaum said he, like most people, doesn't know too much about Kagan's judicial philosophy yet, but likes what he's heard.
``Her credentials are impressive. She was a clerk for (former U.S. Supreme Court Justice) Thurgood Marshall and dean of Harvard Law School,'' he noted. ``I don't think you necessarily need a lot of years as a judge to be effective on the Supreme Court."
One of the nation's foremost chief justices was Earl Warren, who served as governor of California as well as the state's attorney general before he was nominated to the high court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Schebaum noted.
``She seems like a smart, well-educated woman, and she has appeared before the court as solicitor general,'' he said. ``From what I know, I think she'll be fine.''
Schimmerling said the composition of the court affects every American but has had little direct impact on his own law practice.
Poulson said he believes the court will continue to remain divided between liberal and conservative wings after Kagan is confirmed.
``I think we'll continue to see a lot of five-four decisions,'' he said.