Nearly a month before Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, White House Counsel Bob Bauer called Solicitor General Elena Kagan to tell her that the president wished to consider her for a possible Supreme Court vacancy.
Kagan told Congress today in her responses to an official questionnaire that Bauer called on March 5. In the following weeks she met with several members of the White House staff, including David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett. Ultimately she met with both the Vice President and President Obama, who announced her nomination on May 10.
Kagan's 202-page response to the Senate questionnaire includes hundreds of pages of attachments -- including stories she wrote for the "Daily Princetonian" in college -- and reveals some new information about her personal, professional and political life.
While she doesn't bring up her objection to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay members from serving in the armed forces, she explains actions she took as dean of Harvard Law School to ban the military from recruiting students in the school's career center, and includes e-mail sent to the school community on the topic.
In the questionnaire she says she signed a "friend of the court" brief, filed with the Supreme Court, arguing that federal law "did not require universities to exempt the military from generally applicable anti-discrimination rules governing employers." She points out that the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the claim.
Kagan also mentions that she joined a Statement of Law Deans in criticizing remarks made by the Bush Administration's Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Charles Stimson, regarding legal representation of detainees at Guantanamo. She points out that she signed a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, in 2005 opposing an amendment written by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, that would have stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear challenges from detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Some Republicans have said that Kagan , if confirmed, would be faced with having to recuse herself from several cases coming before the Court in her first few years because she has served as Obama's Solicitor General. In the questionnaire Kagan confirms, "I would recuse in all matters for which I was counsel of record."
Kagan writes that she will "look to the letter and spirit" of the non-binding judicial code of ethics and consult with her colleagues in the event of any conflicts of interest arise during her term.
White House officials have downplayed the issue, saying that Kagan would only have to recuse herself from about 15 cases in her first two years.
Kagan lists groups she has supported over the years, including Equal Justice Works -- a group that promotes public-interest law programs at law schools and firms across the country -- and the National Partnership for Women and Families, which says on its website that it "promotes fairness in the work place, reproductive health and rights, access to quality affordable health care, and policies that help women and meet the dual demands of work and home."
She also mentions her service as a member of the Research Advisory Council of Goldman Sachs from 2005 to 2008.