Water to be key issue for high court nominee, Colorado delegates say

U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s position on water rights will be high on the lists of issues for U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall when considering Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bennet also will pay close attention to her position on individual rights, while fellow Colorado Democrat Udall said he’d like to know how Kagan would tackle other natural-resources law.

Those issues also are at the top of the list for two Republicans who aspire to take Bennet’s seat in the November election. In addition, GOP Senate candidates Jane Norton and Ken Buck said they hope to hear that Kagan will interpret the Constitution strictly according to the founders’ intent.

Bennet said he would like to hear Kagan acknowledge the critical importance of water in the West and the need to preserve and protect Colorado’s rightful share under current law, a Bennet spokesman said in an e-mail.

Buck said he would like to hear Kagan reject “this idea that the federal government can pre-empt the states on water. The federal government should take a back seat” on water.

As a “senior lawyer in an administration that has run roughshod on the Constitution, Elena Kagan deserves a battery of tough and direct questions,” Norton said in an e-mail. “In the final analysis the question is: Will Ms. Kagan be another Harvard elite who brings a liberal agenda and activist bias to the court, or will she interpret the law strictly, conservatively and according to original intent?”

Buck, the Weld County district attorney, said he “knew her a little bit” when he attended Princeton at the same time as Kagan.

“I think she’s very smart and a very strong person,” Buck said.

One criticism leveled at Kagan, who has never been a judge, is that the former dean of Harvard law school has little in the way of a judicial record.

“I think there will a record as the hearings unfold,” Buck said. “People will get a feel for what her positions have been in the past.”

Bennet’s Democrat opponent, Andrew Romanoff, said he “particularly appreciated Solicitor General Kagan’s leadership in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” in which the high court lifted some restrictions on corporate political speech. “She fought valiantly, albeit unsuccessfully, to preserve the power of people in our political system. I plan to review her record; I take seriously the Senate’s obligation to advise and consent.”

Udall called Kagan “an appealing candidate” to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens and said, “Coloradans want a justice with sound judgment, a keen intellect, and who will ensure that everyone before the court can and will get a fair hearing.”


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