Elena Kagan begins hearing cases as the Supreme Court's 112th justice Monday morning. But anyone who wants to see her in action needs to be sharp.
Kagan will hear the first case argued before the court, then slip quietly through the burgundy velvet curtains behind the bench. She'll be out of the action in all three cases : Tuesday. Her chair will be empty when the court returns next Tuesday and she'll put in a half-day the next day.
Kagan's old job as solicitor general - the "10th justice" - is initially making it hard to do her new job as the ninth justice.
Kagan, 50, has recused herself from 25 of the 51 cases the court has accepted so far this term, all as a result of her 14-month tenure as solicitor general, the government's chief legal representative in the Supreme Court and the nation's lower appellate courts.
I can't decide whether this reflects more poorly on Kagan's judgment or Obama's - - what's the use of appointing a justice who can't participate in the decision making process?