Kagan Elena life and biography

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Kagan Elena biography

Date of birth : 1960-04-28
Date of death : -
Birthplace : New York City, New York
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-05-14
Credited as : Politician and Solicitor General, Nominee to U.S. Supreme Court, Barack Obama

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Elena Kagan ( born April 28, 1960) is the Solicitor General of the United States and currently nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kagan was born and raised in New York City. After attending Princeton, Oxford, and Harvard Law School, she completed federal and Supreme Court clerkships. She began her career as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, leaving to serve as an Associate White House Counsel and later policy adviser under President Clinton. After a failed nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, she became a professor at Harvard Law School and was later named its Dean.

She was appointed Solicitor General by President Obama on January 26, 2009. On May 10, 2010, President Obama nominated Kagan to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy from the impending retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens at the end of the Supreme Court's 2009/2010 term.


Kagan was a law clerk for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1987 and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988. 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. While at Chicago, she published "Regulation of Hate Speech and Pornography After R.A.V.," a law review article on the regulation of First Amendment hate speech in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul; "Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine," an article discussing the significance of governmental motive in regulating speech; and, "Confirmation Messes, Old and New," a review of a book by Stephen L. Carter discussing the judicial confirmation process.

From 1995 to 1999, Kagan served as President Bill Clinton's Associate White House Counsel and Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council. While serving in that position, Kagan co-authored a May 13, 1997 memo to the President urging him to support a ban on late-term abortions.

In 1996 she wrote an article in the University of Chicago Law Review entitled, “Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine.” Kagan argued that government has the right, even considering the First Amendment, to restrict free speech, when the government believes the speech is "harmful", as long as the restriction is done with good intentions.

On June 17, 1999, President Clinton nominated Kagan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to replace James L. Buckley, who had taken senior status in 1996. The Senate Judiciary Committee's Republican chairman Orrin Hatch scheduled no hearing, effectively ending her nomination. When Clinton's term ended, her nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court lapsed, as did the nomination of fellow Clinton nominee Allen Snyder.

In 2001, she was named a full professor and in 2003 was the first woman to be named Dean of the Law School by Harvard University's then-president Lawrence Summers, who is now President Obama's top economic advisor. 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 such scholars as Jack Goldsmith, who had been serving in the Bush administration.

On January 5, 2009, President-elect Barack Obama announced he would nominate Kagan to be Solicitor General. Before this appointment she had limited courtroom experience. She had never argued a case at trial, and had not argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. This is not uncommon, however, as at least two previous Solicitors General, Robert Bork and Kenneth Starr, had no previous appellate experience at the Supreme Court, though Starr served as a Circuit Court Judge prior to acting as 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 in oral argument before the Supreme Court on September 9, 2009, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

On April 9, 2010, Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he would retire as soon as the Court finished its current caseload in late June or July, triggering a new round of speculation about Kagan's potential nomination to the bench. In a Fresh Dialogues interview, Jeffrey Toobin — a Supreme Court analyst and Kagan's friend and law school classmate — speculated that Kagan would likely be President Obama's nominee, describing her as "very much an Obama type person, a Democrat..." This possibility has alarmed many liberals and progressives, who worry that "replacing Stevens with Kagan risks moving the Court to the Right, perhaps substantially to the Right." However Maggie Gallagher, writing for the National Review, argues that 'A Vote for Kagan is a vote for Gay marriage'.

As Kagan's name was mentioned as a possible replacement for Justice Stevens, the New York Times noted that she "has supported assertions of executive power." This view of vast executive power has caused some commentators to fear that she would reverse the delicate majority in favor of protecting civil liberties on the Supreme Court were she to replace Stevens.

On May 9, 2010, it was reported that President Obama had chosen Kagan as his nominee to succeed Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. If confirmed by the Senate, Kagan would be the first justice in nearly four decades without any prior experience as a judge; the last justice confirmed without prior experience as a judge was William Rehnquist in 1972; she would also become the fourth female justice in the Supreme Court's history, and the third on the current bench. She would also become the eighth Jewish justice in the Supreme Court's history, and the third on the current bench.

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