University of Chicago Law School in the early 1990's when Barack Obama was also teaching there. What President Obama said about Kagan in announcing her nomination to the Supreme Court, and what is also reflected in his own approach to government, introduces another equally important strand of the University of Chicago's contribution:
Elena is respected and admired not just for her intellect and record of achievement, but also for her temperament, her openness to a broad array of viewpoints, her habit, to borrow a phrase from Justice Stevens, of understanding before disagreeing, her fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder.One of the hallmarks of the University of Chicago, which I mentioned in a previous post, is an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for opposing points of view. Arguments at the University of Chicago can be fiercely competitive, but the school as a whole is also known for encouraging faculty and students to listen to, understand, and respect one another's ideas, whether or not they agree with them. Obviously this is a quality that the President wants to bring to the Supreme Court for strategic reasons, as he is known to have been looking for a Justice who can forge coalitions with the five conservatives on the Court, none of whom is known to be going anyplace anytime soon. But it is also an approach he has attempted, not always successfully, to bring to government as a whole. Certainly our political discourse, as well as our legal discourse, could do with more "understanding before disagreeing," in tribute to another Chicagoan, John Paul Stevens. And with two former U of C Law faculty members, Antonin Scalia on the right, and Elena Kagan on the left, we can look forward to vigorous but hopefully civil debate, and strong representation of all aspects of the University of Chicago tradition, in the United States Supreme Court.
(photo from Huffington Post)
UPDATE (5/11/10): For more on this issue from an ADR perspective, I posted a slightly more technical analysis of how Elena Kagan or anyone else could function as a mediator or consensus-builder on a Court on which she would sit as a member, on my mediation blog.