Biography of Elena Kagan, 4th Woman to Sit on High Court

Professional Profile and Information About Elena Kagan

High School Yearbook Picture of Elena Kagan - 1977
••• Hunter College High School

UpdateOn August 5, 2009, Elena Kagan was confirmed by Senate with a vote of 63–37, making her the fourth woman to sit on the high court.

On May 10, 2010, President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to serve as the 112th U.S. Supreme Court Justice. If confirmed by the Senate and appointed by the President, she would become the 4th woman Justice in history despite the fact she has never served as a judge before.

Kagan was also nominated by President Bill Clinton, for whom she worked as associate counsel during his presidency.  He promoted her to the role of Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and then to the role of Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

She was the first woman to serve as solicitor general of the United States and only two months after being confirmed as nominated to replace Justice Paul Stevens on the SCOTUS bench when he retired.

Family Life and Personal Life

Elena Kagan was born in New York City, NY on April 28, 1960, to parents Gloria Gittelman Kagan and Robert Kagan, whose own parents were Jewish immigrants. Both her parents have both passed away. Robert Kagan died in 1994 and her mother, Gloria, died in 2008.

Ms. Kagan's mother was a public school teacher (at one point she was a teacher at Hunter College) and her father was an attorney.

Ms. Kagan is the middle child of three children born to Gloria and Robert Kagan. She has one older brother and a younger brother; both are public school teachers.

Marital Status and Sexual Orientation

Ms. Kagan has never been married and has no children. Although there are rumors that Kagan is a lesbian, she has neither publicly confirmed nor denied the rumors.

Her Early Life and High School Years

Kagan grew up on 75th and West End Avenue on the Upper West Side of New York City.

Kagan attended Hunter College High School in the 1970s. In a New York Times interview, one classmate, Natalie Bowden, recalled the early aspirations of a teenaged Ms. Kagan: to become a Supreme Court justice. "That was a goal from the very beginning," Ms. Bowden said. "She did talk about it then." (1) In a group senior year book picture, Ms. Kagan wore a judges robe and held a gavel in her hand.(2)

Her College Education

Kagan earned a Bachelors degree from Princeton University, graduating, summa cum laude in 1981. Two years later, she received her Masters of Philosophy from Worcester College, Oxford University.

In 1986, Kagan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in where she earned her Juris Doctor.

Professional Life and Legal Background Information

Two years out of law school, Kagan began clerking for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988. From 1995 to 1999 she served as an associate White House counsel and deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton for domestic policy.

Kagan was also an attorney at Williams & Connolly firm and later taught administrative law, labor law and civil procedure. She was considered a First Amendment expert at Chicago and Harvard law school.

After leaving her government position she became a visiting professor at Harvard Law (2001) and within two years was made dean.  She remained dean of Harvard for five years expanding existing campus facilities and developing new ones.

  • Elena Kagan Accomplishments: Kagan's Firsts in Women's History

Elena Kagan's Lack of Experience as a Judge and Trial Lawyer

Kagan has never been a judge. If confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, she would be the first justice in forty years to have had no prior experience as a judge.

Kagan was nominated in 1999 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit but was never confirmed. Kagan never served as a judge at any time during her career. And, according to, Elena Kagan has never even written an opinion or ruled over a case.

Prior to her appointment as Solicitor General in 2009, Kagan had never argued a case at trial and had never argued an appeal before the Supreme Court of the United States. She made her first appearance in oral argument before the Supreme Court on September 9, 2009, in ​Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.


(1) Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Katahrine Q. Seelye and Lisa W. Foderaro. The New York Times. A Climb Marked by Confidence and Canniness. May 10, 2010.

(2) New York Magazine. Elena Kagan Wore a Judge's Robe in Her Yearbook. May 10., 2010.