Senate Democrats

Elena Kagan: Nominee for Supreme Court Justice

Today President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace Justice Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. Widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading legal minds, Kagan has broken many barriers in her career.   Historic Accomplishments   

  • First woman to serve as Dean in Harvard Law School
  • First woman to serve as Solicitor General
  • Would be the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court

  Kagan’s life experiences, both in academia and in government, were made possible through a solid upbringing that prized education and service to others. Elena’s father was a housing lawyer devoted to the rights of tenants. Her mother was a public school teacher committed to helping her students realize their potential.    Kagan attended an all-girls public high school, where she learned that anything she set her mind to was possible. Following in her parents’ footsteps, Elena became a lawyer like her father, using her legal training to serve others, and a beloved teacher like her mother, inspiring the next generation of students to use their legal expertise to improve the lives of Americans.    Despite Kagan’s experience working on real-world problems, some Republicans, have expressed concern over Kagan’s lack of judicial service. Sen. Susan Collins, for example, said, "Ms. Kagan has an impressive resume of dedicated public service and strong legal credentials but she does not have extensive writings by which one can assess her judicial philosophy." Far too many Republicans seem to have forgotten their past support for nominees who also lacked prior judicial experience.    Let’s look at the facts —   

  • 40 of 111 Supreme Court justices had no prior judicial experience.


  • Two of the past four chief justices — William Rehnquist and Earl Warren — did not have prior judicial experience, and both were nominated by Republican presidents. 


  • Former Chief Justice John Marshall and former associate Justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurther had not served as judges prior to their nominations. 


  • Citing Frankfurther, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch in March 2009 publicly expressed his comfort with SCOTUS nominees that lacked experience serving on the bench. "I have long believed that prior judicial experience is not a prerequisite for successful judicial service."

  "Someone as gifted as Elena could easily have settled into a comfortable life in a corporate law practice," said President Obama. "Instead, she chose a life of service — service to her students, service to her country, service to the law and to all those whose lives it shapes."