BY MATTHEW HUTCHINS
President Barack Obama ’91 announced on Monday, May 10th that Solicitor General and former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan ’86 would be his selection to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court following his retirement. Obama praised Kagan’s intellect and public service, and he joked that Kagan, as a Mets fan, will be a rival to Justice Sotomayor, who is a Yankees fan.
Students, faculty, and staff gathered in Harkness Commons to watch the live announcement of the nomination, and the entire gathering cheered upon seeing former dean Kagan enter the White House’s East Room with the President. Those watching seemed to believe themselves to be present in the East Room, applauding louder and longer than the live audience, with hopes of showing their excitement for Kagan’s nomination.
Kagan will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for nomination hearings beginning at the end of May, and although Republican opposition is expected, her successful confirmation last year as Solicitor General reduces the likelihood of acrimonious criticism.
Dean Martha Minow issued a statement praising the selection of Kagan as one of someone with “tremendous vision” who will be a “first rate Justice.” Her statement follows:
“This is a day on which the Harvard Law School community is immensely proud. President Obama—himself a son of Harvard Law School–has nominated to the highest court in the land a leader of tremendous vision who has been supremely dedicated to justice and the rule of law throughout a distinguished career marked by the passionate pursuit of excellence.
Building on her days here as a superb student and later a brilliant teacher and an important scholar, Elena Kagan was an astonishingly effective dean who led the school in putting students first, renovating the curriculum, and expanding the faculty into the best and most wide-ranging to be found at any law school. She bridged past political divides over hiring, renewed the physical spaces of the campus, moved the library into the digital age, and created a climate of mutual respect across a diverse community.
Her decency, her skill at making almost anything better, her intellectual and interpersonal talents, and her integrity make this an outstanding nomination. Her devotion to public service is exemplified not only by her career but also by her creation of the faculty post of Dean’s Special Advisor for public service and her sponsorship of the first Celebration of Public Service, an enormously successful event that brought together multiple generations of alumni with wide-ranging careers in public service.
She has always been an exceptionally careful listener, fairly and respectfully considering every argument and all points of view. Her students and her colleagues have always come away from their encounters with her knowing that she listened to them with the utmost consideration, and that she did not stop probing until she understood exactly what they needed her to understand. She will be a first rate Justice.”