Kagan Would Support Former Bush Lawyer for High Court

Posted June 29, 2010 at 5:23pm

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan hailed Miguel Estrada as an excellent lawyer and pledged to provide an early endorsement of him for a future high court opening — despite the fact that Democrats blocked his appeals court nomination in 2001.

Kagan called Estrada a “great lawyer and a great human being” and agreed to send Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) a letter recommending Estrada to become a Supreme Court justice.

Estrada served on George W. Bush’s legal team in the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, which effectively awarded the presidency to Bush in the contested 2000 election.

Conservatives saw Estrada — who is relatively young and charismatic — as a rising star and envisioned Bush eventually nominating him to the Supreme Court. But Estrada’s involvement in Bush v. Gore made him a pariah in Democratic circles, and when Bush picked him in 2001 for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, his nomination died in the Senate, despite endorsements from a number of Democrats.

Kagan, however, said she held her former Harvard Law School classmate in much higher regard than some Democrats had.

After Graham read excerpts from a letter to the Judiciary Committee from Estrada endorsing Kagan’s nomination, a clearly moved Kagan said: “I think that those comments reflect what an extraordinary human being Miguel Estrada is. And I was deeply touched when I read that letter, deeply grateful to him, of course, and all of the nice things that he said about me I would say back about him double. … He’s qualified to sit as an appellate judge. He’s qualified to sit as a Supreme Court justice.”

Kagan then said she would be “pleased” to write a letter for Graham to keep endorsing Estrada, who currently works for the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, for the court.