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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan speaks at UA

Nick Smallwood

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan visited the UA, had lunch with UA law students and gave a speech moderated by UA College of Law Deans, Emerita Toni Massaro and Marc Miller.

During both the lunch and speech, students were able to engage in an open forum where they got to ask Kagan questions.

“It was very interesting to be able to see Justice Kagan’s personality come through because it is hard to see those characteristics when someone is giving an oral argument or speaking on any formal matter that comes through the Supreme Court,” said Parker Bunch, a third-year law student.

At one point, Kagan had the entire auditorium laughing, but the tone of the conversation changed when the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was addressed. Scalia served on the bench for nearly 30 years and died on Feb. 13 at the age of 79.

“It was very heartwarming to hear Justice Kagan talk about her deceased colleague in such a genuine manner, but there is the other side to his death that leaves a seat open on the bench that needs to be filled,” said Maya Peebles, a junior majoring in law.

The Supreme Court is currently functioning with only eight sitting justices as opposed to the intended nine. President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on March 16, but gridlock in the Senate has prevented his nomination from moving forward.

In the conversation, moderated by Massaro and Miller, it was pointed out that while the justices are guardians of the law, at the end of the day, they are still people.

Kagan, who spoke of her extensive legal background, said she went to law school not because she had an elaborate plan to become a Supreme Court justice one day but because she wanted to keep her options open.

She touched on the political nature of the highest court and how it lacks diversity among the nine, now eight, justices that take the bench.

The visit came to a close when Miller presented Kagan with an autographed UA basketball and they discussed her returning to the UA campus to cheer on our Wildcats.

“I thought the 37th McCormick Lecture—this time, the McCormick Conversation—was spectacular,” Miller said. “We often read the work of the justices and we sometimes read about the justices, but the conversation this evening allowed the UA community to get a glimpse into a fascinating and brilliant jurist and a reflective and engaging human being. I expect that students will now hear her voice and read her words differently when there are opinions written by Justice Kagan.”

Follow Bridget Briody on Twitter.

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