On MSNBC, Savannah Guthrie falsely claimed that Elena Kagan "has never been in private practice ... never tried a case, never litigated a case in court." In fact, Kagan has worked in private practice, has argued before the Supreme Court, and has legal experience comparable to that of conservative justices.
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Guthrie falsely claims Kagan has "never been in private practice ... never tried a case, never litigated a case in court." From the June 28 edition of MSNBC's The Daily Rundown:
GUTHRIE: You heard what Senator [Jeff] Sessions [AL], your Republican colleague, said just a few minutes ago. This is a nominee with the least legal experience in recent memory. You can't argue with that assessment, can you?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Well, I do argue with it, of course. I mean, here's a woman -- the first woman to become dean of the Harvard Law School, the first woman to become solicitor general, sometimes referred to as the 10th member of the Supreme Court. She actually would have been a judge if the Republicans hadn't pocket-filibustered her nomination to the circuit court of appeals when she was first nominated by President Clinton. It's kind of hard to say we -- you know, "We pocket-filibustered her nomination," now we'll say, "But she didn't serve as a member of the court."
But the fact is, up until recent years, almost half of all Supreme Court justices had not served as judges before. Hugo Black, John Marshall, Robert Jackson, these people came from other areas. Justice Rehnquist, when he became a justice, he was working in the Nixon administration. He was not a judge.
GUNTHRIE: Sir, fair enough. Certainly there have been many, many esteemed justices without judicial experience, but here's somebody who's never been in private practice, who's never tried a case, never litigated a case in court. And though she spent years in academia, her most significant experience was as an administrator, as the dean of Harvard Law School. I just wonder if a Republican president had nominated somebody with that same exact resume, would you not be saying, "This person lacks experience"?
LEAHY: No, we'd look at what the experience was and would make up our mind based on that and what her legal abilities are. You know, right now, you speak of trial experience -- there's only one member of the Supreme Court that's had trial experience, and that's Sonia Sotomayor. Of course, a lot of these same Republicans opposed her, saying she didn't have the right experience. She'd been a trial lawyer. She'd been a district attorney. She'd been in private practice. She'd been a court of appeals judge.
So I think sometimes the standards gets changed depending upon who is there. But that's why you have the hearings. I'll make sure that every Republican, every Democrat has a chance to ask questions, and then they can either vote for her or vote against her.
Kagan has worked in private practice
Kagan worked for two years in private practice as an associate at Williams & Connolly. Contrary to Guthrie's claim, Kagan worked in private practice as an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Williams & Connolly from 1989 to 1991. Kagan litigated cases during her time at Williams & Connolly.
Kagan has argued before the Supreme Court
Kagan has had six oral arguments before the Supreme Court as solicitor general. As she wrote in her Judiciary Committee questionnaire, Kagan has argued before the Supreme Court six times as solicitor general.
Kagan has signed over 170 briefs as solicitor general. Kagan has also filed more than 170 briefs as solicitor general.
Kagan received highest rating from the ABA
ABA gave Kagan its highest rating: well qualified. The American Bar Association's standing committee on the federal judiciary unanimously (with one abstention) gave Kagan its highest rating: well qualified.
Legal experts say Kagan is qualified. Eight former solicitors general -- who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations -- have endorsed her nomination. Many other legal experts, journalists, conservatives, and commentators have also agreed that Kagan is qualified.
Kagan's experience is comparable to that of conservative justices
Kagan's legal experience is comparable to that of Rehnquist, Thomas, and Roberts at the time of their nominations. Kagan has 23 years of legal experience (after law school). Rehnquist had 20 years of legal experience at the time of his nomination. Clarence Thomas had 17 years of legal experience at the time of his nomination. John Roberts had 26 years of legal experience at the time of his nomination. None had served more than two years as a judge.
(See here for the biographical information used to compile this chart.)