Law & Courts

Senate Confirms Kagan as U.S. Supreme Court Justice

By The Associated Press — August 05, 2010 3 min read

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Elena Kagan as the 112th justice and fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

The vote was 63-37 for President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens. Five Republicans joined all but one Democrat and the Senate’s two independents to support Kagan. In a rarely practiced ritual reserved for the most historic votes, senators sat at their desks and stood to cast their votes with “ayes” and “nays.”

Kagan has extensive experience in education policy, both as dean of Harvard Law School and through work on numerous K-12 issues as a domestic policy aide to President Bill Clinton. Those issues surfaced during her confirmation hearings, as senators asked about memos she had written on education-related documents during her time in the Clinton White House and while she was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the late 1980s. (“Kagan Vows to Shun ‘Political Hat’ on High Court,” July 13, 2010.)

The Kagan papers released by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., revealed little about her own views on such issues as education funding, testing, social promotion, and school violence. What was clear from the hundreds of pages of documents, however, was that the White House domestic-policy office, where Kagan worked from 1997 to 1999, was deeply involved in education issues, often coordinating with the U.S. Department of Education. Clinton aides viewed education initiatives—whether ambitious, such as an effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or modest, such as a proposal to promote school uniforms—as something that connected with voters and helped cement the president’s legacy. (“Papers Show Kagan in Loop on Clinton K-12 Policy,” School Law Blog, June 6, 2010.)

During the confirmation hearings, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., also challenged Kagan about her handling of military recruiters while she was dean of Harvard Law School, asking whether she was hostile to recruiters in applying Harvard’s non-discrimination policy.

“I respect, indeed, I revere the military,” Kagan told him. “My father was veteran. ... I always tried to make sure I conveyed my honor to the military. In the short period the recruiters had that access through the veterans organization, recruiting actually went up. But I also felt the need to protect the students meant to be protected by [Harvard’s non-discrimination policy], the gay and lesbian students who might want to join the military.” (“Kagan, Sessions Spar on Harvard Recruiting Issue,” School Law Blog, June 29, 2010.)

Kagan isn’t expected to alter the ideological balance of the court, where Stevens was considered a leader of the liberals. But the two parties clashed over her nomination. Republicans argued that Kagan was a political liberal who would be unable to be impartial. Democrats defended her as a highly qualified legal scholar.

She is the first Supreme Court nominee in nearly 40 years with no experience as a judge, and her swearing-in will mark the first time in history that three women will serve on the nine-member court together.

Her lack of judicial experience was the stated reason for one fence-sitting Republican, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, to announce his opposition to her confirmation Thursday, just hours before the vote. Though calling her “brilliant,” Brown — who had been seen as a potential GOP supporter — said she was missing the necessary background to serve as a justice.

“The best umpires, to use the popular analogy, must not only call balls and strikes, but also have spent enough time on the playing field to know the strike zone,” Brown said.

Related Tags:

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

7796 - Director of EAL (K-12) - August '21
Dubai, UAE
GEMS Education
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools

Read Next

Law & Courts Supreme Court Considers Issue of Damages That Comes Up in Many Suits Over School Policies
The justices weigh whether students still have a case for "nominal damages" when schools change a policy in response to a lawsuit.
6 min read
supreme court IMG
iStock/Getty
Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh Whether Schools May Discipline Students for Internet Speech
The justices will hear the appeal of a school district whose discipline of a student for her vulgar message on Snapchat was overturned.
5 min read
Law & Courts District's At-Large Elections Violated Minority Voting Rights, Federal Appeals Court Finds
The case involves school board elections in a majority Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish district with a large Black and Latino population.
3 min read
Image of people at voting booths.
LPETTET/E+
Law & Courts Federal Appeals Court Revives Teacher's Pay-Discrimination Case Over Starting Salary
The court weighed an administrator's alleged comment that the teacher's starting pay was less because her husband worked.
3 min read