Former Law School Professor Elena Kagan nominated to U.S. Supreme Court

Elena Kagan, a former professor at the University of Chicago Law School and current Solicitor General of the United States, has been nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama announced on May 10.

If confirmed, she will be the third Supreme Court Justice in recent years with ties to the Law School, following Justice Antonin Scalia and outgoing Justice John Paul Stevens.

“I have known Elena Kagan for almost 30 years — first as a fellow student at Princeton, then as a faculty member and dean,” said Law School Dean Michael Schill. “I believe she has all of the qualities of mind and temperament to make a spectacular justice of the Supreme Court. I am also proud that her career as a scholar was formed at the University of Chicago Law School. No other school in the nation trains the mind like ours.”

Kagan, a leading scholar of administrative law and First Amendment issues, joined the University of Chicago Law School faculty as an assistant professor in 1991 and served as a tenured professor of law from 1995 to 1997. She accepted a position in the Clinton administration in late 1995, taking leave from the Law School. Kagan joined Harvard Law School in 1999 and served as its dean from 2003 to 2009, when President Obama appointed her Solicitor General. Many of Kagan’s colleagues from Chicago praised her teaching skills and scholarship during her time at the Law School.

“Even in her short time at Chicago, Elena proved herself to be an extraordinary teacher, a very promising scholar and an exceptionally important member of our academic community. Most of all, she was a lawyer’s lawyer and a true role model for our students,” said David Strauss, the Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor at the Law School.

“Elena quickly established herself as a brilliant teacher, focusing particularly in the areas of constitutional and administrative law,” said Geoffrey Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the Law School, who was dean of the Law School when she joined the faculty. “In the classroom, she was tough, sharp and incisive. The students loved her classes. Elena displayed terrific legal skills as a scholar as well as a teacher. Writing primarily about the First Amendment, she was precise, analytical and insightful in her scholarship. Students of that era will surely recall Elena as one of the best teachers at an institution that prides itself on excellence in teaching.”

On the occasion of Kagan’s appointment as Solicitor General in 2009, former Law School dean Saul Levmore released a congratulatory note in which he noted that Kagan had met Barack Obama while they both served at the Law School. Levmore praised Kagan’s record at Chicago and Harvard.

“You have been a great colleague as a Dean, and before that as a faculty colleague at Chicago, and so we at the University of Chicago Law School take special pride in your success and accomplishments, past and future,” Levmore wrote.

Kagan earned her BA from Princeton University in 1981. She earned a master’s in philosophy from Oxford University in 1983 and a JD from Harvard Law School in 1986. She served as a clerk for Judge Abner Mikva and former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall before practicing law in Washington, D.C. with the law firm of Williams & Connolly.