NOW Spotlight on Supreme Court Candidates: Elena Kagan

By Jami Laubich, Communications Intern

When Supreme Court Justice David Souter retired in 2009, Elena Kagan, the first woman to hold the position of solicitor general, was considered to fill the spot. A former colleague of President Obama’s at the University of Chicago, Kagan is once again on the short list to fill Justice John Paul Stevens’ seat on the Supreme Court.

Kagan received her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Princeton in 1981. She then attended Worcester College, Oxford, as Princeton’s Daniel M. Sachs Graduating Fellow, and received a Master of Philosophy in 1983. After that, she went to Harvard Law School, where she was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude in 1986. Kagan became the first female dean of Harvard Law School in 2003.

In the Clinton administration Kagan held two posts, serving as associate counsel to the president and then deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy. Previously she clerked for federal Judge Abner J. Mikva and then for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Clinton selected her to be a circuit judge in Washington D.C., yet her nomination stalled in the Senate.

While Kagan has no rulings to review, evidence from her time at Harvard does show that she would be a champion for LGBT rights. Kagan signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to allow law schools to limit military access to campus recruiting events because Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell violated university anti-discrimination policies. In an email Kagan even stated that the policy was, “a profound wrong — a moral injustice of the first order.”

At 49 years of age, Kagan would be a relatively “young” nominee, a point in her favor considering this is a lifetime appointment, and the president (and NOW) would like to see a liberal hold this seat for many more decades. Kagan does have drawbacks, however. Since Kagan has never been a judge, it is unclear where she stands on most of NOW’s key issues. In addition, once confirmed to the court, she would have to sit out of a large amount of cases due to her familiarity with them as the current solicitor general.

Finally, much has been made about Kagan’s apparently conservative views on civil liberties and executive power. Some believe her appointment to the Supreme Court could help solidify the practice of indefinite detention by the U.S government.

Regardless of her positions on the issues, Kagan does not deserve to be stereotyped or have her personal life speculated about in the media. Prominent, successful women often are targeted for sexist insults and insinuations by their political opponents and media outlets. NOW strongly objects to this form of discrimination and will closely monitor the confirmation process, calling out the injustices we observe.

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