Elena Kagan gives first opinion as a Supreme Court Justice

Elena Kagan has been hearing cases since October, but this is the first time she has written an opinion while on the Supreme Court.

Steve Petteway/AP/File
Justices Sonia Sotomayor (l.), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (c.), and Justice Elena Kagan in the Justices' Conference Room prior to Justice Kagan's Investiture Ceremony at the court in Washington on Oct. 1, 2010. Elena Kagan wrote her first opinion as a Supreme Court Justice, Tuesday.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered her first opinion for the Supreme Court Tuesday, siding with a credit card company in a bankruptcy dispute.

The court, by an 8-1 vote, ruled against Jason Ransom, a debtor who wanted to shield some income from his creditors by claiming a $471 monthly allowance for a car payment.

The only problem is that he owns his 2004 Toyota Camry outright.

"In short, Ransom may not deduct loan or lease expenses, when he does not have any," Kagan said.

Although it seemed an easy issue, federal appeals courts had arrived at different answers.

And dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia said the courts that ruled for the debtors in these cases were right.

The allowance for car payments comes from a formula that sometimes produces odd results, Scalia said. "Our job, it seems to me, is not to eliminate or reduce those oddities, but to give the formula Congress adopted its fairest meaning," he said.

Kagan joined the court in August and had to sit out of eight of the 12 cases the justices heard in October because of her prior job as U.S. solicitor general in the Justice Department.

The bankruptcy case was one of the four she took part in during October.

The case is Ransom v. FIA Card Services, 09-907.

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