Elena Kagan – A Biography of a Supreme Court Justice
Gloria set high standards and instilled within Elena the belief that all students could achieve their goals if they worked hard enough. Gloria instilled this message within Elena as well.
Clerkships include working for Judge Abner Mikva of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court before returning to academia at University of Chicago Law School where she received tenure four years later.
Early Life and Education
Kagan was well prepared to become a justice when it comes to her upbringing and education: Her father Robert served on community boards and represented tenant associations; Gloria taught at Hunter College Elementary school while Robert attended law school in Philadelphia and Princeton (where he graduated summa cum laude in 1981) before moving onto Harvard Law School where he served as editor-in-chief of their student newspaper “The Princetonian”.
She then clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the federal court of appeals and Justice Thurgood Marshall – who affectionately nicknamed her “Shorty”. Following years in private practice and eventually as an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago, President Bill Clinton appointed her to serve on the Supreme Court; during confirmation hearings her ties to Socialism and her support for human cloning caused some concern among senators, yet she managed to navigate their interrogations well.
Kagan worked as an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago, co-writing two law review articles about First Amendment rights and government motive in restricting speech. Later that same year, Senator Joe Biden appointed her to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee where she assisted Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Prior to returning to the private sector as an associate lawyer at Williams and Connolly in Washington D.C., she clerked for Judge Abner Mikva at the United States Court of Appeals and Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court.
President Clinton nominated her to serve on the US Court of Appeals; however, due to inactivity from Senate Judiciary Committee hearings her nomination lapsed and her appointment became effective only three months later. Since 2003 she has served as dean at Harvard Law School.
Achievement and Honors
Hunter College High School saw her lead the student government and wear judge’s robes for her yearbook photo, becoming one of its leaders. At Princeton, she served as editor for The Daily Princetonian before graduating summa cum laude in 1981. Later she earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Worcester College Oxford England before enrolling at Harvard Law School where she became its inaugural female dean as well as clerking for both Judge Abner Mikva of US Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (whom she affectionately called Shorty).
Obama nominated Kagan as a successor for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, with many considering her to be an ideal bridge-builder capable of unifying an increasingly divided bench. She was confirmed by the Senate and officially became an associate justice of the Court on August 10, 2010.
Elena Kagan was born in New York City on April 28, 1960 to a middle-class Jewish family, where both of her parents worked in law. Robert worked as a lawyer while Gloria taught elementary school classes at Hunter College Elementary. Following graduation from Hunter College High School in 1977 she attended Princeton University on a full scholarship, majoring in history while serving as editor-in-chief for its student newspaper The Princetonian.
Following graduation, she clerked for Judge Abner Mikva on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court, followed by work at Williams & Connolly Law Firm in Washington D.C.
President Clinton hired her for his White House Counsel office in 1995, remaining there until leaving to take up a Supreme Court seat. She quickly established a reputation as a bridge-builder on the bench and is often noted for using pop culture references (she once invoked Dr. Seuss’ “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” as part of her dissent).
Elena Kagan was born April 28, 1960 in New York City to Gloria Gittelman Kagan (teacher) and Robert Kagan (attorney). Both of her parents fostered her passion for both law and education from an early age; as a student leader at Hunter College High School her yearbook featured her wearing a judge’s robe and gavel while reading out a quote by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
After graduating Princeton with honors and receiving a fellowship to Oxford University in England for further studies before attending Harvard Law School. Following law school graduation, she completed two prestigious federal clerkships: first for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; then Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court bench.