As most know, President Obama has nominated Elena Kagan to take Justice Stevens' seat on the Supreme Court upon his retirement at the end of this term. Kagan was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and then dean of Harvard Law School (appointed by Larry Summers during his turbulent period as Harvard president). She has served as Solicitor General for the United States since March 19, 2009, a position that requires her to argue the Administration's positions in cases before the supreme Court. She is clearly intelligent and highly educatied, with a Bachelor's degree in history from Princeton summa cum laude in 1981, a Masters in Philosophy from Oxford (1983) and a J.D. from Harvard (1986).
Kagan clerked for Judge Abner Mikva, a progressive thinker on the DC Court of Appeals, and for Justice Thurgood Marshall. Yet in spite of serving under well-known progressive judges, her own views are difficult to cipher. See, e.g., Obama Picks Kagan as Justice Nominee, NY Times, May 10, 2010. She has, perhaps intentionally, revealed very little about herself and avoided ideological labels, being described as "open-minded", "strategic" and "pragmatic." See a Climb Marked by Confidence and Canniness, NY Times, May 10, 2010. She has published very little for someone given tenure at both Chicago and Harvard: her writings deal primarily with First Amendment issues and administrative or procedural law: they reflect interests that are "narrow, somewhat tehcnical, and steered clear of ideology." Id.
We don't know much about Kagan's views on tax, either. She wrote a senior thesis at Princeton on the socialist movement in New York City in the early 20th century, see this wikipedia entry, so she should at the least be informed about the various arguments for social justice within our capitalist-based economic system. There is really nothing to go on to judge whether her approach to statutory interpretation in tax cases will be able to be done with the aid of a "plain English" mantra and a dictionary or rooted in context and aware of the overarching principles that motivate the Code. One hopes for the latter.....
Aside: Should the religious makeup of the Court matter? There are no agnostics or atheists on the Court, and yet surely the First Amendment is intended to protect them. One wonders if the Justices are sufficiently aware of the breadth of perspectives on spiritual life in ordinary communities across America. Kagan's confirmation would make the problem of lack of diversity of religious perspective even more exaggerated. If Kagan is confirmed, the Supreme Court for the first time in its history would have no one of the Protestant faith. Instead, it would have 6 Roman Catholics and 3 Jews.