Kitty Felde |

Elena Kagan speaks up

Elena Kagan began by thanking the president for nominating her. She paid tribute - as everyone on the Judiciary Committee did today - to the late senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd.

She also paid tribute to her parents and the man she's nominated to replace, Justice John Paul Stevens. She also praised Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first two women on the high court.

She recalled the motto of Harvard's Law School, where she was dean. The law is a profession devoted to "those wise restraints that make us free." She said what the Supreme Court does is safeguard the rule of law through a commitment to even-handedness, principle, and restraint.

She promised to "listen hard" to every party before the Court - and to her robed colleagues. And she pledged to do her best to consider each case "impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law."

Most Senators listened with heads cocked to one side. Senator Feinstein smiled warmly throughout Kagan's statement.