WASHINGTON — Newly released documents from her days as an aide to former President Bill Clinton portray Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a person of strong opinions and sometimes overtly liberal views, but above all a pragmatist who pursued middle-ground solutions on issues ranging from abortion to taking on the tobacco industry.
There's little in the papers that suggests Kagan, the solicitor general whom President Barack Obama named to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, would stray far from Stevens' perch on the left of the political spectrum.
In 46,500 pages of notes and memos from her time as a domestic policy adviser to Clinton, Kagan argues in favor of a veto of a late-term abortion ban, for strong gun control measures and against a federal law prohibiting assisted suicide.
But she tempers much of her advice with strong notes of political and legal practicality, often opting for a middle course likely to produce results without unduly angering opponents.
The William J. Clinton Presidential Library released the documents Friday, responding to a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to hold Kagan's confirmation hearings starting June 28. They were the first installment in a 160,000-page trove that senators have been eager to peruse.
The documents were from her time as deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, where she served from 1997 to 1999.
The White House cautioned against reading the files as an indication of Kagan's views. "The documents reflect Elena Kagan's efforts to advance President Clinton's well-established policy agenda, and they should not be interpreted as an outline of her personal positions on specific policy issues," said Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman.
Conservatives said the papers sharpen their concerns about whether Kagan could be impartial. "The documents show a politically savvy Kagan, and bring to the fore the question of whether she would be able to set aside her deeply ingrained political instincts to evenhandedly apply the law," said Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network.