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The skinny on Elena Kagan

From NBC's Mark Murray

50 years old. Was born in New York City on April 28, 1960
Currently serves as the Obama administration's solicitor general
Won Senate confirmation to that post by a 61-31 vote on March 19, 2009
Dean of Harvard's Law School, 2003 -2009
Law professor, Harvard, 1999-2003 (visiting professor, 1999-2001; professor, 2001-2003)
Deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council in the Clinton White House, 1997-1999
Associate counsel to President Clinton, 1995-1996
Law professor, University of Chicago, 1991-1995
Attorney in private practice, Williams & Connolly in DC, 1989-1991
Clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1988
Clerked for D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Abner Mikva, 1986-1987
Harvard Law School, J.D., 1986
Oxford, Worcester College, M. Phil., 1983
Princeton University, A.B. (history), 1981

*** Has plenty of ties to Obama and his administration. In addition to being solicitor general, was hired by chief White House economics adviser Larry Summers to be dean of Harvard Law School. And while at the University of Chicago, Kagan tried to recruit Obama -- then a part-time lecturer in constitutional law -- to a full-time job in academia.
*** Seven Republicans voted for her confirmation: Coburn (OK), Collins (ME), Gregg (NH), Hatch (UT), Kyl (AZ), Lugar (IN), Snowe (ME). Newly minted Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter voted against her.
Won praise -- from both liberals and conservatives -- during her tenure as dean of Harvard Law. Hired some of the best law professors in the country, including Obama friend (and administration official) Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago. Also took actions to make the school more student-friendly, including handing out free coffee and building a volleyball court.
*** But some liberals believe that Kagan, if nominated, would move the Supreme Court to the right. They argue that she -- a la Harriet Miers -- has a tiny paper trail, and so they believe it's inconclusive if she's as liberal as other possible Obama picks. Liberal critics also cite Kagan's past statements that suggest she believes in strong executive-branch powers. *** During her '09 confirmation hearing, the New York Times notes that there was no daylight between her and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham. "Graham … led her through a six-minute colloquy about the president's broad authority to detain enemy combatants. "Do you believe we're at war?" Graham asked. "I do, senator," Kagan replied. (New York Times 5/17/09)
*** While at Harvard, filed a friend of the court brief opposing the Solomon Amendment, which required universities that receive federal funding to be cooperative with military recruiters. Argued that the military's ban on gays broke the law school's anti-discrimination policy against gays. Once the 3rd Circuit ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional, Kagan instructed Harvard Law's Office of Career Services to stop helping military recruiters. But reversed course when the Supreme Court overturned the 3rd Circuit's decision. Still urged students to protest the recruiters. (New York Times, 5/17/09)
*** At 50, is one of the younger Supreme Court possibilities for Obama.
***  Is the first female to serve as U.S. solicitor general
*** Unlike past solicitors general, does not wear a long morning coat with tails -- because it is not comfortable and because of her short stature. "[A]t less than five feet three inches tall, she would have looked a bit like a penguin in the long-tailed coat," NPR said. (NPR, 12/22/09)  
*** While at Harvard, received a standing ovation from the conservative Federalist Society. "I sort of looked out at them, and I said, 'You are not my people, and everyone laughed. And then I said, 'But I love the Federalist Society, and I think that that's when I got a standing ovation." (NPR interview, 12/22/09)
*** Bill Clinton nominated her to a spot on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the GOP-controlled Senate never brought her nomination up for a vote
*** Has called Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked, "the greatest lawyer of the 20th century." Said that Marshall called her "Shorty."
*** Was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review
*** Did not learn to drive a car until her late 20s