Top Court Candidates Differ Widely on Exec Power

New justice will be key to defining prez limits
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2009 4:53 AM CDT
Elena Kagan, the solicitor general, has taken a relatively expansive view of presidential powers.   (AP Photo/Harvard University, Kathleen Dooher)
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(Newser) – Most Supreme Court watchers say that Barack Obama's choice to succeed David Souter will change little, since the retiring justice was a reliable member of the court's liberal bloc. But on critical questions of presidential power, which Souter regularly sought to check, the new justice's vote could be crucial. Obama's top court candidates have widely differing views about the role of the executive, reports the New York Times.

Chicago appeals judge Diane Wood has written that "in a democracy, those responsible for national security must do more than say, 'Trust us, we know best.'" Elena Kagan, by contrast, has defended strong presidential powers. In her solicitor general confirmation hearing, she said the president can detain a suspect linked to al-Qaeda indefinitely without trial. The issue will be critical for Obama—who has not only preserved many Bush-era expansions of executive power, but has also taken unilateral action on the economy. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)