March 19, 2009
The United States Senate voted today to confirm Dean Elena Kagan ’86 as the 44th solicitor general of the United States. By a 61 to 31 vote, Kagan became the first woman solicitor general in U.S. history.
"Elena Kagan has been an extraordinarily effective leader of Harvard Law School, and we can all look forward to her serving the nation in her new role with the same intelligence, energy, and passion for the law," said Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust.
President Barack Obama ’91 nominated Kagan in early January, and on February 10 the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to consider her nomination. The committee reported the nomination favorably to the full Senate.
In her opening statement to the committee in February, Kagan said, “To have the opportunity to lead the Solicitor General’s office is the honor of a lifetime. As you know, this is an office with a long and rich tradition, not only of extraordinary legal skill but also of extraordinary professionalism and integrity. That is due, in large measure, to the people who have led it.”
During the February 10 hearing, the committee also considered the nomination of Thomas Perrelli ’91, former deputy assistant attorney general and managing partner of Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C., to be associate attorney general, the third-ranking position in the Justice Department. Perrelli was confirmed by the Senate on March 12, along with new deputy attorney general David Ogden ’81, the second-ranking officer in the department.
Kagan is the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law. She first came to Harvard Law School as a visiting professor in 1999 and became professor of law in 2001. She has taught administrative law, constitutional law, civil procedure, and seminars on issues involving the separation of powers. She was appointed dean of the law school in 2003.
From 1995 to 1999, Kagan served in the White House, first as associate counsel to the president (1995-96) and then as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council (1997-99). In those positions she played a key role in the executive branch’s formulation, advocacy, and implementation of law and policy in areas ranging from education to crime to public health.
Kagan graduated from Princeton University in 1981. She earned a master’s in philosophy from Oxford and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986. Kagan clerked for Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit and then for the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. She later practiced law as an associate at Williams & Connolly, and taught law on the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School.
During her five-year deanship, Harvard Law School has experienced remarkable growth and change, including a headline-making reform of the curriculum, an impressive expansion of the faculty, a major initiative to support public service, and the design of a new building complex now under construction.
With Kagan’s confirmation as solicitor general, HLS Professor Howell Jackson ’82 becomes acting dean of the law school. Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust has assembled an advisory board to assist in the search for a new dean. The group includes Vice Dean William Alford '77, Professor and former Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon, and Professors Anne Alstott, Richard Fallon, John Goldberg, Randall Kennedy, Reinier Kraakman, Daryl Levinson, Robert Mnookin '68, Carol Steiker '86, and George Triantis.
Kagan will be on leave from the faculty during her service as solicitor general.
HLS faculty and alums endorse Kagan After President Obama ’91 nominated Elena Kagan ’86 to be the solicitor general of the United States on January 5, 2009, the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary received many letters in support of the Dean from her colleagues at the law school, alumni, former students, and attorneys. The committee also received a letter from eight former solicitors general, endorsing her. Excerpts from some of the letters are included below:
HLS solicitors general In March 2009, HLS Dean Elena Kagan’86 was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the 44th solicitor general of the United States. Kagan, the first woman to hold this position, joins a long line of solicitors general with ties to Harvard Law School. They include:
A five-year retrospective Under the five-year deanship of Elena Kagan ’86, Harvard Law School has experienced remarkable growth and change, including a headline-making reform of the curriculum, an impressive expansion of the faculty, a major initiative to support public service, and the design of a new building complex now under construction. An overview of her deanship was recently featured in the media and you can find a timeline here