Six times in the past 9 months, Solicitor General Elena Kagan has come to the mahogany lectern in the hushed reverence of the Supreme Court to argue the government's case before the justices she now hopes to join. Her arguments have gone like this: "Well, Mr. Chief Justice, even if you are right, I think that we prevail." "We don't actually think that that's right, Justice Stevens." The justices have given Kagan an earful, too. "I'm sorry, but that seems rather odd," said Chief Justice John Roberts. "I don't understand what you are saying," said Antonin Scalia.
"General Kagan" has parried with the justices on matters of free speech, terrorism, executive power and more, with a style surprisingly conversational for someone with no previous courtroom experience—and emerged to declare the experience "a great deal of fun." One author predicts that Kagan's ability to combine humor, respect, and responsiveness to the judges in her oral arguments "suggest that if she becomes a justice she's likely to be effective in developing working relationships with the other justices." If nothing else, Kagan's courtroom appearances have been good preparation for the Senate confirmation hearings.
(Read more Elena Kagan Supreme Court stories.)