President-elect Barack Obama has nominated Harvard Law School (HLS) Dean Elena Kagan as solicitor general. If confirmed by the Senate, Kagan will be the first woman to hold the title. The solicitor general’s main role is to act as the attorney for the government’s executive branch should a case involving the government of the United States be argued before the Supreme Court. In addition, according to the Department of Justice’s Web site, “another responsibility of the office is to review all cases decided adversely to the government in the lower courts to determine whether they should be appealed and, if so, what position should be taken. Moreover, the solicitor general determines whether the government will participate as an amicus curiae, or intervene, in cases in any appellate court.”
Kagan, Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law, first came to Harvard as a visiting professor in 1999. She became a professor of law at the School in 2001, and in 2003 she was named HLS dean. Before arriving at Harvard, Kagan worked 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). An authority on administrative law, Kagan’s recent work examines the role of the president of the United States in crafting and influencing federal administrative and regulatory law. Kagan received her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1981 and her J.D. from HLS, where she was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review, in 1986.
“I have accepted this nomination because it offers me the opportunity, working under the leadership of the president-elect and his nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, to help advance this nation’s commitment to the rule of law at what I think is a critical time in our history,” Kagan wrote in an e-mail to Harvard Law School students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
As HLS dean, Kagan’s impact has been far-reaching and has included everything from the overhaul of the School’s first-year curriculum to the development of a tuition reimbursement program for graduates who choose to work in public service to the recruitment of a host of distinguished new faculty members.