In an Aug. 2 interview at the Aspen Institute, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan ‘86 spoke about life as a Supreme Court justice, cameras in the courtroom, and interpreting the law. She was interviewed by Elliot Gerson, a former law clerk to former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.
When asked about her career as a scholar and the influence of the legal academy on her judgeship, Kagan said, “It occurred to me at one point that I approach writing opinions in the way I approached preparing for a class. The way in which the teaching experience actually was most relevant to my judging was not the scholarship part of legal academia, but was the teaching part of legal academia. What makes a good law school teacher is not how much you know, everybody knows a lot if you’re a professor at a law school, but trying to figure out how to communicate complicated ideas to people who know a lot less than you do about a given subject. And not only how to communicate them so that they understand it at the moment but also how to communicate them so that the points stick with them … and make them look at a subject in a particular way.”
A former dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan joined the U.S. Supreme Court in August 2010, becoming the fourth woman to serve on the Court. She previously served as U.S. solicitor general.