President Obama announced today that he is nominating Elena Kagan to take the seat of retiring justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Who is Kagan? Here is some background provided by the White House.
- Elena Kagan was the first female dean of Harvard Law in the school's 186-year history. During her tenure, she fostered consensus among differing viewpoints, promoted a diversity of opinions, and encouraged a respectful exchange of ideas, earning her great admiration among the student body. She also instituted a financial program that encouraged and assisted students in choosing careers in public service.
- If confirmed, Kagan will be the fourth woman ever seated on the nation’s highest court. And, for the first time, the Supreme Court would have three women serving together.
- In 2009 Kagan was confirmed with bipartisan support as the first female solicitor general of the United States. As solicitor general she represents the U.S. government before the Supreme Court. When she was nominated, every solicitor general from the past 25 years—both Democrats and Republicans—wrote a letter of support, noting Kagan’s “brilliant intellect,” “candor,” and the “high regard in which she is held by persons of a wide variety of political and social views.”
- Kagan has stood up for the rights of ordinary citizens and shareholders against corporations in her work as solicitor general. And even though she knew the odds were long, Kagan chose Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission as the first case she argued before the Supreme Court, defending campaign finance reform against special interests spending unlimited money in an attempt to influence elections.
- Kagan studied history at Princeton University and later attended Harvard Law School, where she served on the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, Kagan clerked for Judge Abner Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals and Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court. She credits Marshall with reminding her that “behind law there are stories—stories of people’s lives as shaped by law, stories of people’s lives as might be changed by law.”
- President Obama and Elena Kagan were colleagues at the University of Chicago Law School in the 1990s before Kagan joined Harvard Law. As an academic, her scholarship focused on issues ranging from freedom of speech to government policy making—issues that have had a profound effect on daily life.
- Kagan is the granddaughter of immigrants and grew up in a family that emphasized service to others. Her parents were the first members of her family to attend college, and both parents taught their daughter the value of public service. Kagan’s father was a housing lawyer who fought for tenants’ rights. Her mother was a public school teacher. Kagan would follow in both parents’ footsteps, becoming both a lawyer and a teacher and inspiring the next generation of public servants.
Sounds like a good choice.