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August 20: Elena Kagan
Elena Kagan: Fourth Female Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
Hometown: New York City Education: Princeton University, University of Oxford, Harvard Law SchoolElena Kagan
Elena Kagan was born on April 28, 1960, and raised in New York City. She has two siblings and is the middle child. Her mother, Gloria Gittelman Kagan, taught fifth and sixth grade at Hunter College Elementary School, and her father, Robert Kagan, was an attorney. Kagan and her family lived in a third-floor apartment on the Upper West Side at West End Avenue and 75th Street. She attended Lincoln Square Synagogue.
She received an A.B., summa cum laude, in 1981 from Princeton University. She attended Worcester College, Oxford University, as Princeton’s Daniel M. Sachs Graduating Fellow, and received an M. Phil. in 1983. In 1986, she earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude, where she was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Kagan was a law clerk for Judge Abner Mikva of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1987 and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988; Marshall nicknamed the 5-foot, 3-inch Kagan "Shorty." 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.
From 1995 to 1999, she was associate counsel to President Clinton, and then served as deputy assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council.
Kagan returned to academia in 1999 with a position as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, she authored "Presidential Administration," a law review article on administrative law, including the role of aiding the president of the United States in formulating and influencing federal administrative and regulatory law. That 2001 Harvard Law Review article was honored as the year's top scholarly article by the American Bar Association's Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, and is being developed into a book to be published by Harvard University Press.
In 2001 she was named the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law and in 2003 was the first woman to be named the dean of the Law School by Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. The focus of her tenure was on improving student satisfaction. Efforts included constructing new facilities and reforming the first-year curriculum, as well as introducing aesthetic changes and creature comforts, such as free morning coffee. She has been credited with employing a consensus-building leadership style.
President Obama nominated her to serve as the 45th solicitor general of the United States, and she was confirmed on March 19, 2009. President Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 10, 2010, and she assumed this role on August 7, 2010. Kagan is the Court's 112th justice and its fourth female justice.