Associate Justice Elena Kagan

A New York City native, Associate Justice Elena Kagan was the fourth woman nominated to the Supreme Court. She is the only current member of the Supreme Court without prior judicial experience. However, she built an impressive resume in academia and government work before joining the Supreme Court in 2010.

Education and Clerkships

Justice Kagan graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1981. Then she attended Oxford University as Princeton's Daniel M. Sachs Graduating Fellow, where she earned a master's degree in philosophy. Following Oxford, she attended Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1986. She served as the supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review.

From 1986-1987, Justice Kagan clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She then served as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall during the 1987 Supreme Court Term.

Law Practice

Prior to her appointment as an Associate Justice, Justice Kagan worked in private practice, government, and academics. She was an associate at Williams & Connolly for three years before becoming a law professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

In 1995, she joined President Bill Clinton's White House legal team as associate counsel. During her time with the Clinton Administration, she served as deputy assistant to the President of Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council. Clinton nominated her to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to schedule a confirmation hearing before the end of the Senate term.

Kagan returned to academia in 1999 as a professor at Harvard Law School. Just a few years later, she became the dean of Harvard Law.

In 2008, President Barack Obama nominated Kagan to be the first female United States Solicitor General. After confirmation, she became the Chief Supreme Court advocate for the United States. President Obama nominated her as an Associate Supreme Court Justice on May 10, 2010. She assumed her role on the Court on August 7, 2010.

Notable Decisions

Justice Kagan has only written a few majority opinions for the court and very rarely writes concurring opinions because she believes they distract from the consensus of the court. She wrote the majority opinion in Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, where her longtime love of comic books was on full display as she snuck in several Spider-Man references, such as:

"The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can)."

She even cited a Spider-Man comic:

"What we can decide, we can undecide. But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: "SpiderMan," p. 13 (1962) ("[I]n this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility")."

Justice Kagan also joined the majority on two landmark decisions in 2015 — King v. Burwell, which upheld the Affordable Care Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry.

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