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Elena Kagan’s First Question Was Pretty Complicated

First Monday in October, and the new Supreme Court gets down to business.

This was Elena Kagan‘s first day on the Court.  Oral arguments began at 10:06 for her first case: Ransom v. FIA Card Services, N. A., a rather complicated little case involving the IRS, the Bankruptcy Act, and allowable deductions.

Kagan jumped in a few minutes later with her first question:

JUSTICE KAGAN: Mr. Burke, if we could stay with this. The $471 is derived by looking at the average loan or lease payments nationwide. Then in addition to that we know that the IRS has a separate category for operating costs that is meant to reflect costs of having a car that are not your loan and lease payments. So between those two things, why wouldn’t we say that ownership costs means your loan and lease payments, but operating costs means your other costs of having a car, and that you get the operating costs if you have a car but don’t make loan and lease payments and you get the ownership costs if you do make loan and lease payments?

Jeepers. Guess she did her homework for day one, at least.  Kagan asked 10 questions in all during the hour. 

All the justices asked multiple questions in the case — except for “Silent Clare” Thomas, who of course had none.  Because he doesn’t believe in asking about the facts of a case.


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