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Elena Kagan as Supreme Court consensus builder?

Elena Kagan is Obama's chance to have a Supreme Court justice who can build bridges between factions on the court. Chief Justice John Roberts said he wanted to do that but so far he is failing.

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One quality that President Obama admires in his Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, is that of consensus-building – or her ability to respectfully listen to all sides and patiently bridge disagreements in order to form the widest coalitions.

She ably demonstrated those traits as dean of the Harvard Law School, bringing together a place known for its divisiveness and left-leaning tendencies. Mr. Obama hopes Ms. Kagan can be just as effective with the eight other justices on the bench if confirmed by the Senate.

The ability to reach across a political divide is what Obama also promised for himself as president during his 2008 campaign, hoping to win bipartisan support on major legislation. And John Roberts, the high court’s chief justice who was nominated by President Bush in 2005, likewise promised during his Senate hearings to reduce the large number of 5-4 split decisions on the high court.

Mr. Roberts even specified how he would do it, saying a justice must act with humility and modesty in judging. “The broader the agreement among the justices,” he said, “the more likely it is that the decision is on the narrowest possible ground.”


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