Elena Kagan SCOTUS 0725

Here’s a look at the life of Associate Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. She is the fourth woman to serve on the US Supreme Court.


Birth date: April 28, 1960

Birth place: New York, New York

Birth name: Elena Kagan

Father: Robert Kagan, attorney

Mother: Gloria (Gittelman) Kagan, teacher

Education: Princeton University, A.B., 1981, graduated summa cum laude; Worcester College, Oxford University, M. Phil., 1983; Harvard University, J.D., 1986, graduated magna cum laude

Religion: Jewish

Other Facts

Was editor of the Harvard Law Review.

First female dean of Harvard University Law School.

Nicknamed “Shorty” by Thurgood Marshall. He was 6’ 2”; she is 5’ 3”.

Taught at the University of Chicago Law School at the same time as future US President Barack Obama.


1986-1987 - Law clerk for Judge Abner Mikva, US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

1988 - Clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

1989-1991 - Associate with the DC law firm Williams & Connolly.

1991-1995 - University of Chicago Law School professor.

1993 - Senator Joe Biden appoints Kagan as the special counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee. During this time Kagan works on Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

1995-1996 - Associate counsel to US President Bill Clinton.

1997-1999 - Deputy assistant to President Clinton for domestic policy. Kagan is also deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council.

1999 - Clinton nominates Kagan to the US Court of Appeals. Hearings are never scheduled, and the nomination lapses.

1999-2003 - Harvard Law School professor.

April 3, 2003-March 20, 2009 - Dean of Harvard University Law School.

January 26, 2009 - Obama names Kagan to be US solicitor general.

March 19, 2009 - Confirmed by the US Senate 61-31 to become the first woman to serve as US solicitor general, despite opposition by over 75% of Republican senators.

May 10, 2010 - Obama nominates Kagan to be a justice on the US Supreme Court.

July 20, 2010 - The Senate Judiciary Committee votes 13-6 to send her nomination to the full Senate for consideration.

August 5, 2010 - The Senate confirms Kagan as an associate justice of the US Supreme Court.

August 7, 2010 - Kagan is sworn in as the 112th Supreme Court justice.

January 23, 2012 - The Supreme Court denies a request from Freedom Watch, a political advocacy group, that Kagan should recuse herself from the upcoming appeals over the constitutionality of health care reform. Kagan served as the Obama administration’s top government lawyer handling appeals to the Supreme Court when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed.

June 22, 2015 - The Supreme Court rules in favor of Marvel Entertainment against Stephen Kimble in a case that deals with patent fees. The opinion, written by Kagan, includes several references to Spider-Man.

March 7, 2019 - Kagan appears before House lawmakers to voice the court’s entrenched opposition to televising oral arguments. She acknowledges benefits to the public seeing the nation’s highest court at work, but tells a House Appropriations subcommittee that, “If seeing [the court] came at the expense of the way the institution functioned that would be a very bad bargain. And I do worry that cameras might come at that expense.”

June 21, 2019 - Kagan says that a 5-4 opinion that broke along ideological lines “smashes a hundred-plus years of legal rulings to smithereens.” The case addresses when property owners can sue the government to claim its actions are an unconstitutional “taking.” Under existing Supreme Court precedent, the plaintiff couldn’t sue to challenge the taking until the state was given a chance to pay just compensation. The new decision holds that the plaintiff can sue in federal court as soon as the taking occurs. In her dissent Kagan says, “when a theory requires declaring precedent after precedent after precedent wrong, that’s a sign the theory itself may be wrong.”

June 27, 2019 - Reads a dissent following the 5-4 decision that gerrymandering is beyond the reach of the court. “The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections.”

October 8, 2020 - Kagan denies a request from Republicans to block Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s directive allowing counties to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters amidst the coronavirus pandemic.