News & Politics


It’s been a heck of a week for Elena Kagan. Monday, Obama introduced her to the nation as his pick to replace Justice John Paul Stevens. By Tuesday, we had all been treated to a 17-year-old photo of her playing softball, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. Since then, Kagan has been trekking around Capitol Hill, introducing herself to the key senators who get to decide whether she will indeed take Stevens’s seat. Here are some other highlights:

The Washington Post notes that if Kagan is confirmed, Ivy League domination of the high-court bench will be complete. Justice Stevens, in fact, was the only non-Ivy grad.

Though Kagan is known predominantly for her work in the Clinton administration and of course, at Harvard Law—where she was dean before joining the Obama administration—she also did a short stint in private practice at Washington’s very own Williams & Connolly. Her work there will no doubt be scrutinized during her confirmation. Maybe we’ll learn something new about the firm, which is notoriously secretive about client work.

Since Kagan has never previously been a judge, Republicans can’t rely on past rulings as evidence of how she’ll decide cases as a justice. Instead, they’re hoping that memos she wrote during her time as a domestic-policy advisor and an associate White House counsel to President Clinton will offer some insight.

One piece of ammunition Kagan opponents will likely use during her confirmation is the fact that as Harvard Law dean, she restricted campus access to military recruiters because she opposed the ban on openly gay service members. But at least one Republican senator indicates he won’t hold it against her.

There’s another high-profile legal gig available: Kagan’s replacement as Solicitor General. It’s one of the most coveted positions for a lawyer, and it ensures a hefty private-practice paycheck later on. One possible contender is Washington state governor Christine Gregoire.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.