7 Things About Elena Kagan You Didn't Know
Saturday is Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's 58h birthday. Kagan was the last of President Obama's Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed — or even given a hearing — by the Senate, and has emerged as a crucial liberal vote on the closely-divided court. But there are many things about Kagan you may not have known.
A graduate of Princeton, Oxford and Harvard, Kagan clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and taught at the University of Chicago Law School before working at various capacities in the Clinton White House. Clinton later nominated her to serve on the D.C. circuit court of appeals, but the Senate never took up her nomination, and she eventually returned to academia.
As a Supreme Court Justice, Kagan has cast several tie-breaking votes on historic cases. In the 2011 case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Kagan voted with the majority to uphold Obamacare's individual mandate, effectively saving the law from collapse. Three years later, she joined the majority decision in Obergefell v Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Both cases were decided on a 5-4 vote, the narrowest of possible margins on the court.
But historic decisions aside, there's a lot more about Kagan you might not know.
She Was The First Female Solicitor General
Before Obama named Kagan to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by John Paul Stevens, he appointed her to serve as the U.S. Solicitor General. She was confirmed, and became the first woman to serve in the position. However, she only stayed in the position for a little over a year before leaving for the high court.
She Loves Comic Books
Kagan has spoken about her love for comic books, and said at a 2012 event that "there basically are no comic book action hero movies that I have not seen." She's singled out The Avengers as one of her favorites, and sprinkled a bunch of puns and inside jokes about Spider-Man into a decision she wrote for case involving Marvel Entertainment.
She's The Only Sitting Justice With No Previous Judicial Experience
This one's pretty self-explanatory. Although Kagan clerked at the D.C. circuit and has plenty of legal experience, she never actually served as a judge before Obama appointed her to the high court. She's the first justice since William Rehnquist, who was appointed in 1972, to land at the Supreme Court despite having no prior judicial experience.
She Had A Frozen Yogurt Machine Installed In The SCOTUS Cafeteria
Yup. She did. And really, who can blame her? Every cafeteria should have a frozen yogurt machine.
She's The Only Sitting Justice Who's Never Been Married
Although fellow justice Sonia Sotomayor, another Obama appointee, is also unmarried, Kagan is the only sitting justice to have never tied the knot. She doesn't have any kids, either.
She's Celebrated As One Of The Court's Best Writers
In addition to her jurisprudence and legal mind, Kagan is widely recognized as one of the most talented writers on the court. The New York Times, the New Republic and the Volokh Conspiracy have all published articles highlighting Kagan's way with words. Slate called her "the best writer on the Supreme Court," while Law360 praised her as a "writer with a distinctive, fun-loving and conversational style" — which isn't always the case with Supreme Court justices.
She Had A Gavel & Wore Judges Robes In A High School Yearbook Photo
It's true: As a student at Hunter College High School in New York in 1977, Kagan posed for a photo with the high school's student government group wearing a judge's robe and holding a gavel. According to NBC News, she also played hardball while participating in a mock trial in eighth grade, refusing to let a classmate have a rebuttal because she'd already rested her case. Clearly, Kagan had an idea of where she'd be headed at a young age.
During her eight years on the court, Kagan has solidified her reputation as a skilled jurist and talented legal writer. And lover of comic books. And frozen yogurt provider.