Justice Kagan mum about new health care law

By Ivan Moreno

Associated Press

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan declined to say Tuesday whether she'll recuse herself if the country's new health care law comes before her and her colleagues.

Kagan said she doesn't say "in any case whether I'm recusing myself or not" before the case comes up. "I never do this and no other member of the court does this," said Kagan, the court's newest member, during an event in Colorado at the Aspen Institute.

Kagan had to recuse herself from about 30 cases during her first term on the bench because she was previously the U.S. solicitor general, chosen by President Barack Obama, and had argued on behalf of the government on cases that reached the Supreme Court.

"It turned out that I was not indispensible," she joked about the times she had to recuse herself. "The court managed without me perfectly fine."

Several states have filed challenges of the health care legislation passed last year and it's widely expected that some aspects of the new law will go before the Supreme Court.

Kagan, who became the fourth woman ever to join the Supreme Court in August 2010, said her time as solicitor general gave her insight into the court's functions.

"Your job is to try to figure out how to persuade nine Supreme Court justices to take a particular position," she said about her previous post. "And now my job is to figure out how to persuade eight Supreme Court justices," she said, prompting laughter from hundreds at the event.

Although Kagan had experience arguing cases in the Supreme Court before her appointment, she's the only serving justice who has not been a judge. She said that has posed some challenges because she's learning the process of writing opinions, working with clerks, and figuring out whether it's best to read trial briefs weeks in advance or the day before a case.

"The mechanics of the job, I had to figure out," she said. "And, frankly, I'm not sure I have."

Published: Thu, Aug 4, 2011