As expected, the Senate on Thursday confirmed by a vote of 63 to 37 the nomination of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be the next Supreme Court justice. President Obama named Kagan as his pick to replace retiring justice John Paul Stevens on May 10, 2010. Kagan’s confirmation process has been relatively uncontroversial. Because she has never served in a judicial capacity, her views on various topics – including labor and employment issues – could not be gleaned from past opinions. Kagan will be the fourth woman to ever serve on the high court, and historically one of three to be sitting on the nine-member bench at one time. It is largely believed that Kagan will maintain the Court’s current ideological balance. Information on Kagan’s work history, responses to hearing questions, and letters and materials sent and received in connection with her nomination can be found here.
Kagan spent the majority of her legal career in academic settings, notably as a professor and dean of Harvard Law School. During her tenure at Harvard, Kagan opposed the Solomon Amendment, a law that requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to provide students access to military recruiters. When Kagan became Dean in 2003, a group of law students and faculty members formed the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) and challenged the Solomon Amendment. Harvard maintained a nondiscrimination policy that barred recruiters whose employers maintained discriminatory employment policies. Kagan believed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was in violation of the school’s nondiscrimination policy. The Supreme Court eventually upheld the legality of the Solomon Amendment, and Kagan reluctantly rescinded the school’s practice of disallowing military recruiters.
Prior to working at Harvard, Kagan in 1995 began serving in the Clinton Administration as Counsel to the President. In 1997, Kagan was named Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council. Kagan continued her government work in 2009 when she was confirmed as Solicitor General for the current administration. In this capacity, Kagan argued on behalf of the government in favor of limiting independent corporate and union spending during political campaigns in Citizens United v. FEC. The Supreme Court ruled against the government by a 5-4 margin.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a series of hearings on her nomination the week of June 28 before ultimately voting 13-6 to send her nomination to the Senate. Transcripts from those hearings can be found here.