This morning, President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court of the United States. If confirmed, Ms. Kagan will be the fourth woman to serve on the Court, and will bring the current number of female justices to three, the highest ever.
Ms. Kagan has never served as a judge, but she was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in 1999 by President Clinton. At the time, she was serving as Associate White House Counsel. Her nomination, however, was thwarted by Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who didn’t schedule a hearing for her, which effectively ended her nomination.
Subsequent to working in the Clinton White House, Ms. Kagan presided as dean of Harvard Law School from 2003-2009. President Obama appointed her the first female Solicitor General in U.S. history in 2009. The Solicitor General represents the federal government in cases before the Supreme Court.
Ms. Kagan is generally regarded to be left-leaning and is openly pro-choice and pro-LGBT rights. During her time as dean at Harvard, she barred military recruiters from campus because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, but allowed them to return because the school risked losing federal funds. In written answers to questions from members of the Senate Judiciary during her nomination to the Solicitor General position, she wrote that “the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, subject to various permissible forms of state regulation.” Critics on the left distrust her views on executive power and indefinitely detaining foreign combatants suspected of supporting al-Qaeda.
As we wrote in another blog post, appointing and electing female judges matters. If Ms. Kagan is confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice, she will join Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor in bringing women’s representation on the Court to 33%. While this is still far from a perfect representation of the female population on the bench, it would be a welcome step forward.