Sunday, October 10, 2010

Elena Kagan: Supreme Court's 112th Justice

The United States Supreme Court began its fall session last week, with Elena Kagan as its newest associate justice. For the first time in its history, the High Court has three sitting female justices.

Elena Kagan is the High Court's 112th justice, its fourth female justice, and its eighth Jewish justice. She is the second justice nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kagan is the first justice in nearly 40 years to have no prior judicial experience.

Prior to being nominated to her current position, Justice Kagan spent 14 months acting as the United States' 45th Solicitor General. In that position, she had contacts with several federal cases, based on which Justice Kagan has recused herself from 25 of the 51 cases the High Court has taken on for the current term. The High Court has no system of replacing a recused justice on a case, hence, these 25 cases will be heard by only 8 justices. The last justice who needed to recuse himself from hearing cases was Thurgood Marshall in 1967, because he had served as the 32nd U.S. Solicitor General from 1965 to 1967.

Justice Kagan was born in New York City, on the Upper West Side. She attended Princeton University where in 1981 she earned a Bachelor of Arts in history summa cum laude, and was editorial chair of the Daily Princetonian. In 1983, she earned a master of philosophy from Oxford University, and in 1986 she received a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. After graduating from law school, she clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the D.C. Circuit, and for Justice Thurgood Marshall at the U.S. Supreme Court. After working in private law practice, Kagan taught at the Chicago Law School, then served as Associate White House Counsel during the Clinton presidency. She then took a teaching position at Harvard Law School and went on to become the school's Dean.

On January 5, 2009, President Obama nominated Kagan to become the United States Solicitor General, and on March 19, 2009, the Senate approved her by a 61-31 vote, making her the first female to hold this position. On May 9, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, to fill in the vacancy created by Justice John Paul Stevens' retirement. On July 20, 2010, the Senate Judicial Committee recommended Kagan's confirmation to the full Senate, by a 13-6 vote. On August 5, 2010, members of the Senate confirmed Kagan as an associate justice by a 63-37 vote; a handful of Republicans voted in support of this confirmation. In the past five years, four new justices have been appointed to the High Court.

The materials for this blog were gathered from CBS News, Bloomberg, Afro, Wikipedia, Politics Daily, and VOA News. For additional information run a search on Google.

Robin Mashal is a Los Angeles business attorney, and a partner at the law firm of Hong & Mashal LLP. Mr. Mashal has been admitted to the State Bar of California and the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. He can be reached by phone at (310) 286-2000.