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Elena Kagan confirmation hearings: Do her politics really matter?

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(Read caption) Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan testifies at her confirmation hearings this week.

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Based on the questions she's faced so far, Elena Kagan could be forgiven for thinking she'd applied for a job with Major League Baseball.

Ever since Chief Justice John Roberts compared judges to umpires in his confirmation hearings five years ago, nominees have felt pressure to affirm their commitment to impartial, fair readings of the law.

In her opening statement, Ms. Kagan affirmed:

"I have no agenda, but I do have a commitment. If I am confirmed, I will confront every case with an open mind. I will fully and fairly analyze the legal arguments that are presented. I will be open to the considered views of my colleagues on the bench. And I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability. And I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat."

Responding to GOP charges that she would use the Supreme Court to advance her left-leaning politics, Ms. Kagan responded: "My politics would be, must be, have to be, completely separate from my judgment."

Her statement was meant to be reassuring, but is it really possible – or even desirable – to expect Supreme Court justices to keep their political convictions “completely separate” from their judgment?

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