Fourth female Supreme Court Justice, first female dean of Harvard Law, first female Solicitor General
"Elena Kagan is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She is the Court's fourth female justice.
Kagan was born and raised in New York City. After attending Princeton, Oxford, and Harvard Law School, she completed federal Court of Appeals and Supreme Court clerkships. She began her career as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, leaving to serve as Associate White House Counsel, and later as policy adviser, under President Clinton. After a nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which expired without action, she became a professor at Harvard Law School and was later named its first female dean.
In 2009, Kagan became the first female Solicitor General of the United States. On May 10, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy arising from the impending retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, and she resigned her position as Solicitor General in August 2010 upon her confirmation to the Supreme Court. After confirmation, Kagan was sworn in on August 7, 2010, by Chief Justice John G. Roberts in a private ceremony. Kagan's formal investiture ceremony before a special sitting of the United States Supreme Court took place on October 1, 2010.
As an undergraduate, Kagan also served as editorial chair of The Daily Princetonian. Along with eight other students (including Eliot Spitzer, who was student body president at the time), Kagan penned the Declaration of the Campaign for a Democratic University, which called for "a fundamental restructuring of university governance" and condemned Princeton's administration for making decisions "behind closed doors".
In 1980, Kagan received Princeton's Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Graduating Scholarship, one of the highest general awards conferred by the university, which enabled her to study at Worcester College, Oxford. She earned a Master of Philosophy in Politics at Oxford in 1983. She received a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, at Harvard Law School in 1986, where she was supervisory editor of the Harvard Law Review. Friend Jeffrey Toobin recalled that Kagan "stood out from the start as one with a formidable mind. She's good with people. At the time, the law school was a politically charged and divided place. She navigated the factions with ease, and won the respect of everyone."
Kagan was a law clerk for Judge Abner J. Mikva of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1987 and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988. Marshall nicknamed the 5 foot 3 inch Kagan "Shorty". She later entered private practice as an associate at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connolly.
Kagan joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School as an assistant professor in 1991 and became a tenured professor of law in 1995… According to her colleagues, Kagan's students complimented and admired her from the beginning, and she was granted tenure "despite the reservations of some colleagues who thought she had not published enough."
While at Harvard, she authored a law review article on United States administrative law, including the role of aiding the President of the United States in formulating and influencing federal administrative and regulatory law, which was honored as the year's top scholarly article by the American Bar Association's Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, and is being developed into a book to be published by Harvard University Press.
In 2001, she was named a full professor and in 2003 was named Dean of the Law School by Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. She succeeded Robert C. Clark, who had served as dean for over a decade. The focus of her tenure was on improving student satisfaction. Efforts included constructing new facilities and reforming the first-year curriculum as well as aesthetic changes and creature comforts, such as free morning coffee. She has been credited for employing a consensus-building leadership style, which surmounted the school's previous ideological discord.
In her capacity as dean, Kagan inherited a $400 million capital campaign, "Setting the Standard", in 2003. It ended in 2008 with a record breaking $476 million raised, 19% more than the original goal. Kagan made a number of prominent new hires, increasing the size of the faculty considerably. Her coups included hiring legal scholar Cass Sunstein away from the University of Chicago and Lawrence Lessig away from Stanford. She also broke a logjam on conservative hires by bringing in scholars such as Jack Goldsmith, who had been serving in the Bush administration…
During her deanship, Kagan upheld a decades-old policy barring military recruiters from the Office of Career Services because she felt that the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy discriminated against gays and lesbians. As dean, Kagan supported a lawsuit intended to overturn the Solomon Amendment so military recruiters might be banned from the grounds of schools like Harvard. When a federal appeals court ruled The Pentagon could not withhold funds, she banned the military from Harvard's campus once again. The case was challenged in the Supreme Court, which ruled the military could indeed require schools to allow recruiters if they wanted to receive federal money. Kagan, though she allowed the military back, simultaneously urged students to demonstrate against Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In October 2003, Kagan transmitted an e-mail to students and faculty deploring that military recruiters had shown up on campus in violation of the school's anti-discrimination policy. It read, "This action causes me deep distress. I abhor the military's discriminatory recruitment policy." She also wrote that it was "a profound wrong—a moral injustice of the first order…”
By early 2007, Kagan was a finalist for the presidency of Harvard University as a whole after Lawrence Summers' resignation the previous year, but lost out to Drew Gilpin Faust. She was reportedly disappointed not to be chosen, and supportive law school students threw her a party to express their appreciation for her leadership.
On January 5, 2009, President-elect Barack Obama announced he would nominate Kagan to be Solicitor General. Before this appointment she had never argued a case before any court. At least two previous solicitors general, Robert Bork and Kenneth Starr, also had no previous Supreme Court appearances, though Starr was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before becoming Solicitor General.
Kagan was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 19, 2009, by a vote of 61 to 31, becoming the first woman to hold the position. She made her first appearance before the Supreme Court on September 9, 2009, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
*The First Amendment Center and the Cato Institute later expressed concern over arguments Kagan advanced as a part of her role as Solicitor General. For example, during her time as Solicitor General, Kagan prepared a brief defending a law later ruled unconstitutional that criminalized depictions of animal cruelty. During her confirmation hearing, she said that "there is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage." Also during her confirmation hearing, she was asked about the Defense of Marriage Act, pursuant to which states were not required to recognize same-sex marriages originating in other states. Kagan indicated that she would defend the act "if there is any reasonable basis to do so".
On May 10, 2010, Obama nominated Kagan to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Justice Stevens. The deans of over one-third of the country's law schools, sixty-nine people in total, endorsed Kagan's nomination in an open letter in early June. It lauded what it considered her coalition-building skills and "understanding of both doctrine and policy" as well as her written record of legal analysis. On August 5 the full Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 63–37. The voting was largely on party lines, with five Republicans (Richard Lugar, Judd Gregg, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe) supporting her and one Democrat (Ben Nelson) opposing. The Senate's two independents voted in favor of confirmation. She was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts on Saturday August 7, in a private ceremony.
Kagan is the first justice appointed without any prior experience as a judge since William Rehnquist in 1972. She is the fourth female justice in the Court's history (and, for the first time, part of a Court with three female justices) and the eighth Jewish justice, making three of the nine current justices Jewish." (1)