New US Supreme Court term opens with Kagan aboard

Justice Elena Kagan got her first taste of arguments from behind the bench.

Washington: The US Supreme Court opened its new term with new Justice Elena Kagan getting her first taste of arguments from behind the bench.

The high court turned down hundreds of appeals, including not allowing a sexual harassment trial to go forward against a former United Nations official.

The court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Cynthia Brzak, an American who alleged that ex-refugee chief Ruud Lubbers, a former Dutch prime minister, grabbed her in a sexual manner after a December 2003 business meeting in his Geneva office.

Federal courts have said that the UN is absolutely immune from such a lawsuit, and its former employees also have immunity. Lubbers later resigned his post.

Kagan joined two other women on the nine-justice court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, and later asked her first public question in a case.

Less than 20 minutes into the court`s new term, Kagan participated directly in an argument before the justices.

The court was trying to figure out whether someone in bankruptcy who owned a car outright could still shield some income from creditors by claiming an allowance for a car payment. Like many seemingly easy issues that come to the court, this one has divided federal appeals courts.

Kagan wanted to know if the debtor could instead claim the gas and maintenance expenses that go along with having a car.