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Excerpts from Sen. Leahy's opening remarks

The following are excerpts from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) opening remarks:

On Kagan's being the fourth prospective female Justice:

"Now, on the issue before us today, there have been 111 justices on the Supreme Court of the United States. Only three have been women. If she is confirmed, Solicitor General Kagan will bring the Supreme Court to an historical high-water mark."

On Kagan's qualifications:

"I believe we're a better country for the path -- that the path of excellence Elena Kagan has taken in her career is a path now open to both men and women."

On the confirmation hearing process:

"The Supreme Court exists for all Americans. Only one person gets to nominate somebody for the court. Only 100 Americans get to vote on whether that person should be on the court or not. It an awesome responsibility, and I urge the nominee to engage with this committee and through these proceedings with the American people in a constitutional conversation about the role of the courts and our Constitution."

On ideaological "litmus tests":

"Now, I reject the ideological litmus tests from either the right or the left that some would apply to Supreme Court nominees. I expect judges to look to the legislative intent of our laws, to consider the consequences of their decisions, to use common sense, and to follow the law.

In my view, a Supreme Court justice needs to exercise judgment, should appreciate the proper role of the courts in our democracy, should consider the consequences of decisions on the fundamental purposes of the law and in the lives of Americans.

I will urge Solicitor General Kagan here publicly what I've urged her privately, to be open, be responsive, to share with us, but even more importantly with the American people her judicial philosophy, but also to assure us of her judicial independence from either the right or the left.

I believe that fair-minded people will find her judicial philosophy well within the legal mainstream. I welcome questions to Solicitor General Kagan about judicial independence, but I'd urge senators on both sides to be fair. There is no basis to question her integrity. No one should presume that this intelligent woman who's excelled during every part of her varied and distinguished career lacks independence. "

On Vermont:

"My own state of Vermont, the 14th state in the union, did not vote to join the union until the year the Bill of Rights was ratified. We are cautious in Vermont. Those of us from the Green Mountain State are protective of our fundamental liberties. We understand the importance the Constitution and its amendments have had in expanding individual liberties over the past 220 years. I hope that Elena Kagan will demonstrate through this hearing she'll be the kind of independent justice who will keep faith with these principles and keep faith with the words that are inscribed in Vermont marble over the front doors to the Supreme Court: "Equal justice under law."

By Emi Kolawole  |  June 28, 2010; 1:16 PM ET
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