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Elena Kagan

(1960 - )

Elena Kagan is a Jewish American judge and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Kagan was born in New York, New York, on April 28, 1960.  Kagan attended the Lincoln Square Synagogue growing up and became a bat-Mitzvah in an unusual Friday night ceremony. She received an A.B., summa cum laude, in 1981 from Princeton University.  She attended Worcester College, Oxford University, as Princeton’s Daniel M. Sachs Graduating Fellow, and received an M. Phil. in 1983.  In 1986, she earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude, where she was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. 

Kagan clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1986 to 1987. The next year, she clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. She worked as an associate in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly from 1989 to 1991. She launched her academic career at the University of Chicago Law School, where she became an assistant professor in 1991 and a tenured professor of law in 1995. In 1993, Kagan received the graduating students’ award for teaching excellence.

From 1995 to 1999, Kagan served in the White House, first as Associate Counsel to the President (1995-96) and then as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council (1997-99). In those positions she played a key role in the executive branch’s formulation, advocacy, and implementation of law and policy in areas ranging from education to crime to public health.

A leading scholar of administrative law, Kagan came to Harvard Law School as a visiting professor in 1999 and became Professor of Law in 2001. While on the faculty, Kagan taught administrative law, constitutional law, civil procedure, and seminars on issues involving the separation of powers. She was appointed Dean of the Law School in 2003 by Lawrence Summers.

President Obama nominated Kagan to serve as the 45th Solicitor General of the United States and she was confirmed on March 19, 2009. Her first case as Solicitor General was the controversial Citizens United v The Federal Election Commssion, a case which she lost. She left the position after President Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 10, 2010, and she assumed the role on August 7, 2010.

Justice Kagan lives in Washington, D.C.

Sources: Green, David. “This Day in Jewish History: The girl who rattled the rabbi grows up, joins Supreme Court,” Haaretz, (August 5, 2015);
Supreme Court of the United States;
U.S. Department of Justice. This article was written with the assistance of Eli Nirenberg from Munster, Indiana