Associated Press Examines Kagan's Time at UChicago

Kagan: From a mock Supreme Court to the real thing
Jessica Gresko
Associated Press
June 24, 2010

The nine students who sat as a mock Supreme Court dissected the cases before them. During weekly classes they picked apart arguments and became frustrated by incomplete briefs. Their seminar professor, Elena Kagan, largely kept quiet, letting her students run the debate.

At the end of class she might ask: How do you think the real court will decide?

That was more than a decade ago, when Kagan was a young professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Now the nation's first female solicitor general and nominee to become the 112th Supreme Court justice, she is poised to help decide herself.

Kagan's time in the classroom — four years at the University of Chicago and 10 as a professor and then dean at Harvard Law School — is an unlikely topic for the lawmakers who will grill her during confirmation hearings that begin Monday. But Kagan herself brought up teaching the last time she faced lawmakers' questions.

During her confirmation hearing for solicitor general she was asked about her lack of experience arguing before the Supreme Court. She told lawmakers that the communication skills that had made her a "famously excellent teacher" would help her argue.

It was at the University of Chicago — before leaving to work in the Clinton administration or serving as dean at Harvard — that Kagan got her first experience as a professor. After graduating from law school and working for two years at a D.C. law firm, Kagan started at the university in 1991.