Senators await Kagan papers from Clinton library

US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan makes the rounds on Capitol Hill on May 13, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan makes the rounds on Capitol Hill on May 13, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Tim Sloan/Getty Images

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Researchers at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library are working overtime to produce more than 160,000 pages of documents - some of them possibly holding clues to the record of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Senate Republicans have questioned whether dumping all that material three weeks before Kagan's confirmation hearings would give them enough time fully scrutinize her record.

Kagan has never been a judge and has left little paper trail during her academic career. But there's much unknown about her tenure as a lawyer in the Clinton White House and as part of Bill Clinton's Domestic Policy Council. Hearings begin June 28 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The nation's top archivist has said he hopes to start releasing documents by June 4.

"Since this is by far the most significant public record that the nominee has, those records just need to be produced so they can be examined," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the committee's top Republican. "I believe that the hearings should not be conducted until we've had an opportunity to examine the documents in advance - not just have them in our hands."

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pointed out when he set the hearing schedule that the Senate had reviewed Kagan's credentials a year earlier when it confirmed her as solicitor general, the government's top lawyer in arguments before the Supreme Court.

"There is no reason to unduly delay consideration of this nomination," said Leahy.

The timetable for Kagan - 49 days between her nomination and the start of hearings - compares with 48 for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's first high court nominee.

Hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts were to begin 49 days after his nomination by President George W. Bush, but Hurricane Katrina and the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist pushed that back a week.

Some of Kagan's writings are in the files of Bruce Reed, her boss who headed the Domestic Policy Council. Apart from a 1997 memo in which Kagan and Reed encouraged Clinton to support a ban on some late-term abortions, few documents so far have illuminated Kagan's personal views on divisive issues.

Susan Cooper, a spokeswoman with the National Archives and Records Administration, says the documents will be posted online in waves - not all at once - for the public and senators.

Most of the documents withheld under the Presidential Records Act and Freedom of Information Act relate to national security, confidential advice between the president and his advisers or information considered "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy," according to the Clinton library. Anything that's been removed from a file is noted with a sheet that lists the reason for the withdrawal and the paper's subject.

The White House has said President Barack Obama does not intend to claim executive privilege to withhold documents. But it's not clear whether the president has waived his right to do so. Nor is it known whether Clinton, who also has a say in the release of records from his time in office, will seek to do so. He has refused to say.

Kagan worked as a White House associate counsel from 1995-1996 and as a deputy assistant for domestic policy from 1997 to 1999.

Andrew Dowdle, a University of Arkansas political scientist, said he didn't expect to see Kagan's involvement in the more scandalous parts of Clinton's presidency.

"You're not going to really see a lot of very specific policy issues," Dowdle said. "I don't think you're going to see much on the specifics of the impeachment battle. I think that most of the things you're doing to see are ... dealing with more abstract constitutional issues."

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Associated Press writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Washington contributed to this report.

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Online:

William J. Clinton Presidential Library: http://www.clintonlibrary.gov

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