Solicitor General Elena Kagan is a woman to be respected. She’s a product of Princeton, Oxford, and Harvard Law School. She’s one of the Elect (OT 1987 / Marshall). She’s taught at two of the nation’s top law schools and served as dean of one of them. She’s America’s lawyer, and if confirmed this summer, she’ll become the 112th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — and the fourth woman to hold that position.
She inspires in other ways too, though. Ever since photos of her started gracing websites and newspapers across the land, she has inspired comparisons to numerous other people and fictional characters when it comes to her looks, ranging from Kevin James of King of Queens to Kathy Bates.
Now that the question of Elena Kagan’s sexuality has been settled (kind of), critical attention seems to be turning to her lack of judicial and litigation experience. Although ABA President Carolyn Lamm tells NBC that she doesn’t think “not being a judge is particularly persuasive one way or the other,” some Republican senators have expressed concern over the fact that she’s never warmed a bench.
It’s not as if Kagan doesn’t know what a courtroom looks like, though. She clerked on the powerful and prestigious D.C. Circuit, for the legendary liberal J. Abner Mikva, and then spent time at One First Street, clerking for Justice Thurgood Marshall (OT 1987). As solicitor general, she’s argued before the High Court a half dozen times (although she wasn’t able to win over the Five of the Nine in Citizens United v. FEC).
But hey, at least she has a law degree. Not that she needs it to sit on the bench at One First Street…
We’ve had plenty of unnamed sources insisting on the heterosexuality of Solicitor General and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The most notable was the anonymous administration official who told the Washington Post that Kagan isn’t gay, in response to an online column by conservative blogger Ben Domenech claiming otherwise.
But there have been other such sources. I previously mentioned one, a Clinton Administration official involved in vetting Kagan when she was nominated to the D.C. Circuit, who insisted to me that she’s straight. Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic cited “[p]eople who know Kagan very well” in reporting that she’s not gay.
Now we have an identified individual going on the record to say that the Divine Miss K enjoys the big D. From Politico:
Elena Kagan is not a lesbian, one of her best friends told POLITICO Tuesday night, responding to persistent rumors and innuendo about the Supreme Court nominee’s personal life.
“I’ve known her for most of her adult life and I know she’s straight,” said Sarah Walzer, Kagan’s roommate in law school and a close friend since then. “She dated men when we were in law school, we talked about men — who in our class was cute, who she would like to date, all of those things. She definitely dated when she was in D.C. after law school, when she was in Chicago – and she just didn’t find the right person.”
A denial that the likely 112th justice of the Supreme Court is a devotee of Sappho? This is just… so… ridiculous. But fun! God bless America.
Will confirmation hearings remind Kagan of the Pit of Despair?
UPDATE: Vote in our Elena Kagan Look-A-Like Contest here.
Every time we write about Solicitor General Elena Kagan (and we’re writing about her quite frequently since Obama tapped her for the Supreme Court), our readers immediately begin commenting on her looks.
But we are too. We’ve written before about how attractive lawyers do better financially than their looks-challenged counterparts in the private sector, and unattractive people’s tendency to migrate out of law firms and into government and public sector jobs.
We’ve also commented specifically on Kagan’s looks. Lat is a devoted fan:
Solicitor General Kagan, you’re quite pretty. There’s a reason you made our list of law school dean hotties, back when you were dean at Harvard Law School. You have great skin, a dazzling smile, and a girlish glow. You definitely possess assets that merit accentuation.
A few years back, Kagan was nominated for our Law School Dean Hotties contest. Now we’re devoting an entire contest to her: the Elena Kagan look-a-like contest.
We’re accepting submissions in the comments, and choosing finalists based on those with the most “likes.” A photo essay on suggestions so far, after the jump….
I can count myself as one of the thousands of students that had Elena Kagan as a professor. She’s taught at the University of Chicago School of Law and Harvard Law School. I had her in 2000 — before she became Dean of Harvard Law School — for Civil Procedure my first semester 1L year. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, at some ungodly hour in the morning.
Like Frodo on Weathertop, there are some wounds that never fully heal. Professor Kagan massacred me intellectually, and brutalized my pride. I got some form of a B in her class (I honestly don’t remember if there was a modifier — I’ve tried to suppress those memories). Kagan was a frightening professor for those who wanted to match wits with the brightest legal minds in the world. For people like me, people who just wanted to get through law school with minimal mental damage, Kagan was nothing short of terrifying.
Consider this a notebook dump from my three months in Kagan’s class…
Now that the fabulous Elena Kagan has been officially nominated to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, some folks have been wondering: What does the future hold for the unsuccessful shortlisters? Let’s consider them, one by one.
1. Judge Merrick Garland (D.C. Cir.): The brilliant D.C. Circuit judge — practically a “tenth justice” himself, due to his ridiculous success in feeding his clerks to the Court — could be considered for a future vacancy. He’s young enough, at 57, and the Garland clerk mafia is strong, with representation in the White House counsel’s office and other D.C. power centers.
Garland is the SCOTUS candidate who would be most appealing to conservatives, so his chances of appointment are directly proportional to Republican representation in the Senate. My advice for Judge Garland: vote Republican.
2. Judge Sidney Thomas (9th Cir.): The well-regarded Ninth Circuit judge’s appearance on Obama’s short list surprised some, but it really shouldn’t have. Sid Thomas is very smart and veryliberal, and he would add diversity to the Court (as a Montanan, non-Ivy Leaguer, and Protestant).
“Sidney Thomas is being thrown around in case [Justice Anthony M.] Kennedy steps down in the next two years,” a D.C. insider involved in the nomination process told me. “As far as we can tell, Obama likes [Sid Thomas] and wants to introduce him as a possibility to make him more palatable next time around.”
If Justice Kennedy, 73, were to leave the Court, it would be without any West Coast representation. Nominating Judge Thomas — a member of the Ninth Circuit, just like AMK was before his elevation — would remedy that.
My advice for Judge Thomas: pray for Justice Kennedy to have a heart attack.
3. Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.): It pains me to say this, because I adore Judge Wood, but this go-around was her last best chance at the Court. This July 4, Judge Wood will turn 60, viewed by some as the upper bound for a nominee in terms of age. As one of my friends observed on Facebook, Wood is on her way to becoming the liberal version of Judge Edith Jones, whose numerous unsuccessful appearances on shortlists led Slate to dub her “Susan Lucci in judicial robes.”
My advice for Judge Wood: enjoy Chicago. Or pray for ill to befall Justice Ginsburg very, very quickly — if RBG leaves soon, you might still have a shot.
In addition, I have a rather significant CORRECTION, concerning some speculation I passed along last night. The rumor was that Daniel Meltzer, the deputy White House counsel who recently announced his resignation to return to the Harvard Law School faculty, harbors a grudge against Kagan — because she beat him out for the HLS deanship — and that Meltzer therefore lobbied against her nomination to the Court.
So…. just how wrong was I about tension between Kagan and Meltzer?
It’s Elena Kagan’s “wise Latina” comment. Just as Court watchers dug up a controversial, eight-year-old statement by Sonia Sotomayor last year, they have unearthed a law review article that Kagan authored in 1995 when she was a young law professor at the University of Chicago. In it, she criticized the Supreme Court confirmation hearings as they existed then (and now) as a “vapid and hollow charade,” in desperate need of reform to get at a nominee’s true judicial philosophy and views.
Now the statement is being thrown back at Elena Kagan as she prepares for her own confirmation hearings. Such is the nature of the modern confirmation process, when everything one has said or written can be found in the immense digital file cabinet that is the Internet (which is not always a bad thing, as Lat and Kash argue in a Washington Post piece today on myths about the confirmation process). A search of “Kagan and charade” in Google returned over 5,000 results this morning.
This seems like an opportune time to take a more thorough look at the 25-page book review from which the sound bite comes, and to highlight other passages that shed light on a 35-year-old Kagan’s opinion of the confirmation process. Not all of it casts a dark shadow when brought to light today. Regarding a nominee’s qualifications for the highest court, she presciently asked:
Must, for example …, a nominee have served on another appellate court — or may (as I believe) she demonstrate the requisite intelligence and legal ability through academic scholarship, the practice of law, or governmental service of some other kind?
Perhaps by serving as Harvard Law School dean, and then as Solicitor General?
What other gems can be found in the 15-year-old document?
Tomorrow President Obama will officially announce his nomination of Elena Kagan, current Solicitor General and former Harvard Law School dean, to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. The news might get leaked unofficially tonight, so stay tuned.
We have no reason to question this prediction by Politico — and several reasons support it. The biggest clue is that Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.), viewed by many as Kagan’s closest competitor, was notified yesterday by the White House that she (Wood) will not be the nominee.
OVERALL EXPLANATORY UPDATE: Apologies for the many updates and corrections below. The short version of what happened is that I originally reported that Judge Wood was notified yesterday that she wouldn’t be the nominee. I got some pushback on that — because it was, in fact, wrong. I corrected the item. But then, about two hours after this post first went up, Judge Wood did get a call from President Obama, informing her that he had decided to go in another direction.
UPDATE (7:00 PM): Some supporters of Judge Wood are denying that she’s out of the running. But, to the extent that Judge Wood hasn’t confirmed her getting dinged to them, I suspect she’s just trying to be a team player, by doing her part not to steal Kagan’s thunder or spoil the White House “surprise.”
UPDATE (7:30 PM): To the Wood supporters who insist she’s still waiting for a call from the White House: if she is the nominee, shouldn’t she know by now? Over at SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein is reporting that “[t]he Administration plans to identify its nominee in ‘guidance’ at 7:20am tomorrow morning, with a formal announcement by the President at 11am.”
CORRECTION (7:45 PM): Okay. I’m now hearing, on VERY good authority, that Judge Wood was NOT notified yesterday. So she is still (technically) in contention. I continue to believe that Kagan will be the nominee — but I’d be happy to be wrong about this, since I previously predicted that Judge Wood would be nominated. (My colleague Elie Mystal, meanwhile, has been predicting Kagan allalong.)
UPDATE (8:45 PM): I can now say — with absolute, 100 percent certainty, from the same VERY good authority — that Judge Wood was just informed that she’s not going to be the nominee. President Obama did not tell her who has been picked for the position.
Everywhere you go, people are buzzing that President Barack Obama has made his choice on the replacement for Justice John Paul Stevens. And the consensus is that the nominee will be Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Politico reports that David, Kash and I will be up late on Sunday:
Look for President Obama to name his Supreme Court pick Monday, and look for it to be Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a former Harvard Law dean. The pick isn’t official, but top White House aides will be shocked if it’s otherwise… The West Wing may leak the pick to AP’s Ben Feller on the later side Sunday, then confirm it for others for morning editions. For now, aides say POTUS hasn’t decided, to their knowledge.
With all the talk about the razor-sharp Judge Diane Wood, the case for the bearded dark-horse Judge Sidney Thomas, and the Republican wet dream (at least, a wet dream within the nightmare of Democratic control) of Judge Merrick Garland, it’s possible that Kagan’s sterling qualifications have been overlooked. She was the front runner, after all.
But let’s remember all of the excellent reasons Kagan was the front runner in the first place…
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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