Former justice: Judicial experience not an issue

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says that lack of judicial experience should not derail Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

O’Connor said that more than a third of all justices came to the court without first serving as a judge. “I think it’s fine. Just fine,” O’Connor told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday.

The first woman to serve on the Supreme Court said that Kagan, a former dean of Harvard Law School, seems “very well qualified academically.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings, however, are a “difficult, unpleasant experience” for any nominee, O’Connor said.

Justice Antonin Scalia also says no judicial experience is necessary.

In a speech Wednesday reported by ABC, Scalia noted that when he started on the Supreme Court, three of the justices he served with had no background on the federal bench. On the current court, all nine justices have served earlier as federal judges.

“I am happy to see that this latest nominee is not a federal judge — and not a judge at all,” Scalia said in a lecture sponsored by Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law.

Kagan was President Barack Obama’s solicitor general before he nominated her to the court. She was returning to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet privately with a half dozen senators. Her nomination hearings could begin as soon as late June.