Kagan, Sotomayor Breathe New Wind Into Liberals' Sails

'Passionate' Sotomayor, bridge-building Kagan aren't shy during oral arguments
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2010 11:06 AM CST
Kagan, Sotomayor Breathe New Wind Into Liberals' Sails
Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan in the Justices' Conference Room prior to Kagan's Investiture, Friday, Oct. 1, 2010.   (AP Photo/Steve Petteway, Supreme Court)

It's a bit like Mean Girls: Supreme Court Edition: After decades of the conservative tongue-lashings of Antonin Scalia dominating oral arguments as liberal justices sat on their hands, new kids Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are unabashedly adding their voices to the melee. "Slow down from the rhetoric," Sotomayor told a conservative lawyer before the court; she then launched into what the LA Times calls a "withering discussion" of the case at hand.

"Once she gets going, she can dominate the argument," says the lawyer on the receiving end. "In that sense, she is closer in style to Justice Scalia." Kagan is more measured, often waiting til well into arguments to weigh in and build bridges. But she's no less frank, recently tweaking Scalia for being snide—even as she validated his point. "They're clearly on a roll," says a lawyer who argues routinely before the court. "They are engaged and really active. It just feels like a different place." (Read more Sonia Sotomayor stories.)

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