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Elena Kagan

Photo: flickr/berkman10_220

President Obama just named U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. If Kagan is confirmed, there’ll be more women on the bench than ever before. Here are five things you need to know about Elena Kagan:

1. Kagan’s long legal career includes little trial experience and none as a judge. This might help with the confirmation process, since Kagan leaves no paper trail for critics to attack. According to a recent poll, 70 percent of Americans say judicial credentials should be a factor in Supreme Court appointments, but some, including former President Bill Clinton, disagree. The last justice to come to the court with no judicial experience was former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in 1972.

2. Before joining the Obama administration, Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, where she initiated an innovative tuition waiver for all third-year students planning to work in public service after graduation. But her most well-known action as dean might be that she restricted military recruiters on campus because the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was a violation of the school’s anti-discrimination rules. Kagan lifted the restrictions once the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a law that revokes all federal funding from universities that ban military recruiters.

3. During Kagan’s brief tenure in litigation, she served as part of the counsel that represented the recording industry and several records labels in their challenge to a music obscenity ruling that stemmed from the release of rap group 2 Live Crew’s “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” album.

4. With a net worth of $ 1 million, Kagan will be in good company on the court. Currently, six out of the nine justices are millionaires, including retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

5. Though her confirmation vote for solicitor general fell mostly along party lines, Kagan does have bipartisan appeal. She was able to garner support from seven Republican senators and the endorsements of former solicitors general Ted Olsen and Ken Starr.  Described by Utah senator Orrin Hatch as a “brilliant legal mind,” Kagan has experience working with Arizona senator John McCain on tobacco regulations while a member of the Clinton administration.



  • Anne Oppermann

    sideboom – why is that important?

  • sideboom

    I see a tatoo on her chest center line, looks like an insignia !

  • hooper

    It’s the shadow from the microphone.

  • citizen1787

    Why is geography and regional representation never brought up in the Supreme Court nomination process?

    The western US is known for being more independent and populist politically, yet this is not represented on the court.

    Of the nine current Justices only two were born west of the Mississippi and none of them went to law school out west. Is the curriculum and instruction at all western US law schools inferior to institutions in the East? or just the connections?

    Currently, the Midwest has two Justices, one is retiring and it looks like his replacement will be someone from New York who went to Harvard.

    Also, why are there no Americans of asian descent on the Supreme Court? Has one ever been nominated? and no atheists? and why is not one protestant christian on the court in a country where protestantism is the majority faith?

    John Roberts- b. Indiana, went to Harvard law.

    John Paul Stevens- b. Illinois, went to U. of Chicago BA and Northwestern Law.

    Antonin Scalia- b. New Jersey, went to Georgetown BA and Harvard Law.

    Anthony Kennedy- b. California, went to Stanford BA, the London School of Economics and Harvard Law

    Clarence Thomas- b. Georgia, went to Holy Cross(Mass.) BA, Yale law.

    Ruth Ginsburg- b. New York, went to Cornell BA, Columbia law.

    Stephen Breyer- b. California, went to Stanford BA, Harvard law.

    Samuel Alito- b. New Jersey, went to Princeton BA, Yale law.

    Why the East Coast, private school bias?

  • Mike Licht

    Elena Kagan truly believes in government transparency. She wants Supreme Court sessions televised even though the camera adds ten pounds.


  • citizen1787

    Frank I find your sentiment distastefully stated. Perhaps, you want “certain people” of the court. I don’t, I’m glad to see another woman.

    However, I think that the court has become to biased to the East Coast and to everything that entails. I have lived in the NE and it is very different than the West.

    Also, christians are the majority religious denomination in this country. (>50%) Protestants are the largest group of American christians (41%). Catholics(24%) Americans of Jewish faith or heritage are around 3% of the US population.

    How about one protestant on the court? Martin Luther was important! and so was the protestant reformation. The USA would not exist in its present form if the protestant reformation did not happen.

  • E. Rivers

    Hmmm, from what I’m seeing, “Need to Know” is going to remain a typical-looking television news magazine – fluffy and hardly digging into critical matters that one needs to really know. Isn’t the critical issue of Kagan is how she will affect the Supreme Court direction? Will it continue to slide to the right? What is really behind the Obama decision?
    I can find these 5 points in many other reports on the Internet, what makes “Need to Know” think that’s the extent we can think? How’s the phrase, “dumbing down” sound?
    Need to Know is a sorry lightweight. It suggests that PBS is scared of being a real news organization. Perhaps Shelly Lewis is following orders not to stir up controversy. Don’t give them a New York Times, give them USA Today, they don’t know the difference. Maybe they don’t want to get the corporate sponsors upset.

  • John

    Is she gay? Not that it matters.

  • Tom

    I’d like to know also. It could affect our children in the future. It does matter.

  • citizen1787


  • Joyce Levy

    Why should it matter if she is gay? After the mess Judge Thomas was in prior to his nomination to the court, it doesn’t seem to matter. Let’s be less concerned about her private life and concentrate on her ability to fairly judge. She certainly has the smarts to do the job.
    obtuse 3

  • Barbara agle

    Where was she born and where are her parents from?

  • Barbara Cagle

    Where was she born and where were her parents from?

  • Drag Dog

    When is Elena Kagan is confirmed for a position as an Associate Justice on the Uinted States Supreme Court, American Jews will comprise 33 percent of the total members of said high court. American Jews make -up 1.7 percent of the USA population. So how is that 33 percent a true microcosm of America ?
    Barack Hussein Obama, only serves at the behest of his well heeled corporate sponsors on Wall Street, & Madison Avenue.
    I guess we shall get a Protestant, on the U.S. Supreme Court when the famed Boston Celtics, start an American White player in their starting five.

  • Drag Dog

    Correction : When Elena Kagan is confirmed for a position as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court, American Jews will comprise 33 percent of the total members on the High Court.
    Justice Sotomayor is from the Bronx, New York. Justice Ginsburg is from Brooklyn, New York. Elena Kagan is from the Upper Westside of Manhattan, New York City. All three women attended Ivy League Law Schools. Sotomayor a Yale Grad; Ginsburg Harvard & Columbia; Ginsburg had to leave Harvard Law for a temporary disability; Gingsburg graduated from Columbia Law.. Ginsburg is the only one in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court to make the famed Law Review in two different Law Schools, Harvard & Columbia; Kagan is Harvard Law grad,
    and she was the Dean at Harvard Law School.
    Kagan also taught Law at the Univeristy of Chicago. President Obama also taught Law at the University of Chicago.
    It appears as though you have to go an Ivy League School, and come from New York to get a lifetime job on the U.S. Supreme Court. Apparently Obama dosen’t want anyone from the South, Far West , Midwest, Southwest, or the West on the high court.
    Don’t you think that is very elitist ?
    I want my country back. Where are all the Protestant’s ?
    Yes We can

  • Oddoneout

    The name of the author is James Edwards? This isn’t the same James Edwards who hosts the white supremacist “Political Cesspool” show, is it? Hope not.

  • Mike Licht

    Supreme Court justices are not meant to be “a true microcosm of America.”They are supposed to be smart enough to understand the Law.

    Congress is meant to be representative, and it is. Its members are as stupid as the rest of us.

    God save America.

  • Mr

    Elena Kagan begins work as Supreme Court justice – Baltimore Sun: As dramatic as the conflict over Elena Kagan ‘s nomination to the Su…… Elena Kagan begins work as Supreme Court justice – Baltimore Sun: As dramatic as the conflict over Elena Kagan ‘s nomination to the Su….

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