Kagan hearings start in Washington

If confirmed, Ms Kagan will be one of three Jews on the Supreme Court

If confirmed, Ms Kagan will be one of three Jews on the Supreme Court

Hearings have begun in Washington to confirm a Jewish woman as a judge on America’s highest court.

US President Barack Obama nominated his solicitor-general Elena Kagan for a position on the Supreme Court in May 2010. She faces at least two days of questions from a panel of 19 Democrats and Republicans.

If she is confirmed - and Republican critics have promised she will face tough questioning – a third of the nine Supreme Court justices would be Jewish. The other six members are Catholic.

The former Harvard Law School dean would also be the fourth woman to serve as in the country’s history, sitting alongside fellow Jewish female judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

In an opening statement Ms Kagan, 50, praised the Supreme Court and pledged to work hard to rule in the interests of the people.

She said: "I will work hard and I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law," she said.

But Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee opened the hearings with questions on Ms Kagan’s limited experience as a judge and her record of political activism as a lawyer.

The position on the judiciary opened after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement.

Louis Brandeis was chosen as the first Jewish Supreme Court justice in 1919, under President Woodrow Wilson.

Last updated: 11:18am, June 29 2010