In her excellent interview with Chief Judge Alex Kozinski at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, Solicitor General Elena Kagan poked gentle fun at the controversy surrounding what she should wear while arguing before the Supreme Court, as the first female Solicitor General. She quipped: “That this is the big question of the Washington Supreme Court bar probably tells you something about the Supreme Court bar.”
And yet, despite making light of the issue, Solicitor General Kagan simultaneously built the suspense over what she would wear to One First Street. She deflected Judge Kozinski’s inquiries regarding her attire: “I’ve ostentatiously kept it a secret as to what I’m doing. If I told you, I’d have to shoot you.” (She was willing to admit, under intense questioning from Judge Kozinski, that she would not be arguing in Jimmy Choos.)
On Wednesday, Solicitor General Kagan ended the suspense, when she appeared before the Court to argue the Citizens United case. For recaps of the argument in this important and highly charged case, see Adam Liptak and Dahlia Lithwick.
We’ll focus on what really matters: What did Solicitor General Kagan wear on Wednesday? She eschewed the traditional morning coat, or some feminized version thereof, in favor of a pantsuit.
And that’s where the disagreement begins. Leading Supreme Court correspondents had different takes on its color. Tony Mauro of the Legal Times described it as “a businesslike black pantsuit with an open-collared white blouse.” But Dahlia Lithwick of Slate described it as “a tasteful blue pantsuit.”
So, what color was the Solicitrix General’s pantsuit? We reached out for comment to someone who ought to know: the SG herself.
We contacted Solicitor General Kagan and pointed out the split of authority concerning the color of her pantsuit. Was Tony Mauro correct, in describing it as a black pantsuit paired with a white blouse, or was Dahlia Lithwick correct, in describing it as a blue pantsuit?
To our great delight, the SG responded to our query:
[T]he truth is it was a black pantsuit with a light blue blouse.
So neither Mauro nor Lithwick was entirely right. Mauro got the color of the blouse wrong (perhaps that light blue was very light), but Lithwick thought the black pantsuit was blue (which, in her defense, can often happen with very dark shades of navy).
We’re disappointed in Lithwick and Mauro, who are usually extremely keen observers of everything that happens at the Court. Might these errors be an indication that the Supreme Court press corps needs better seating at One First Street?
We then asked Solicitor General Kagan an even more important question: Who were you wearing? Which designer was responsible for your “businesslike” yet “tasteful” garment? Alas, SG Kagan demurred: “I’m afraid I can’t give up the labels.” [FN1]
(Hmm…. Why did the Solicitor General invoke the Fifth? Would her response have been embarrassingly low-end, or embarrassingly high-end?)
Update: As commenters suggest (here and here), perhaps Solicitor General Kagan does not want to be seen as endorsing any product.
In any event, we thank the Solicitor General for indulging our inquiry on the pantsuit’s color. Isn’t it refreshing to have an SG argue in something other than the traditional morning coat? And isn’t it nice to have an advocate at One First Street with a sense of style?
P.S. If you’re really obsessed with the Solicitor General’s fashion choices — and if you’ve read this far, you probably are — then do check out this video, of the fabulous conversation at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference between Elena Kagan Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.
It’s a fascinating conversation, covering the substantive — e.g., how the SG’s office decides when to seek cert — and the fun. Find out, for example, who prevailed when Kozinski and Kagan played poker at Harvard Law School years ago. As for fashion, the topic comes up at the 23:30 mark and then the 26:00 mark of the video clip. Enjoy!
[FN1] Does anyone think we can find out SG Kagan’s designer of choice via a FOIA request? It could be argued that such an inquiry falls under the exemption for “personal information affecting an individual’s privacy.” But what reasonable expectation of privacy can one have in a garment worn in public? If our colleagues from Fashionista had been in the courtroom on Wednesday, we’re sure they could have figured out the designer on sight.
If anyone who saw the pantsuit in person has a guess as to its provenance — until there are cameras in the courtroom, we have to rely on eyewitnesses like you —
feel free to email us (subject line: “Elena Kagan’s pantsuit”). Thanks.
A Conversation with Solicitor General Elena Kagan [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit]
Unprecedented: Watching the Supreme Court make its campaign finance jurisprudence disappear [Slate]
Supreme Court Majority Critical of Campaign Law Precedents [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]
Earlier: At the Ninth Circuit Conference: Elena Kagan Likes Sensible Shoes