The Senate confirmed former Harvard Law School Dean and Solicitor General Elena Kagan ’86 to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court today by a vote of 63-37. Kagan becomes the twentieth Harvard Law School alumnus and the first former Dean of the Law School to serve on the Court.

Click here to view the swearing-in ceremony on

“This is a superb moment for the country and the rule of law—as well as for our community at Harvard Law School,” said HLS Dean Martha Minow. “Soon-to-be Justice Kagan will bring to her new job the qualities of integrity, analytic brilliance, and deep attention to the specific situations of real people that she demonstrated so well here as Professor and Dean. Her abiding and lifelong passion for justice and the rule of law will inform the work of the highest court of the land. It is an awesome responsibility—which, as she herself described it, and as we remind each of our graduating students—is to ensure those wise restraints that make us free. We salute her and send our best wishes while celebrating this excellent moment for the country.”

View a slideshow of Elena Kagan’s time at Harvard Law School

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Kagan was thrust into the national spotlight when President Barack Obama ’91 announced her nomination to the Court on May 11. Through a grueling weeklong hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kagan deftly fielded a broad range of questions on issues ranging from the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms to her handling (as Dean) of the enforcement of the Law School’s antidiscrimination policy as applied to military recruiters bound by the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy prohibiting openly gay and lesbian individuals from serving in the armed forces. Several of Kagan’s friends, family, and colleagues watched from the audience, including Harvard Law School Professors Charles Fried, Carol Steiker ’86, Richard Fallon, John Manning ’85, and Dean Martha Minow.

View a segment on Elena Kagan from ABC’s “Good Morning America”:

Prior to being named Solicitor General, Kagan spent over ten years at Harvard Law School – first as a member of the faculty, and then as its Dean. In the timeline below, we take a look back at her time at Harvard.

For additional coverage of Elena Kagan’s confirmation, visit the Harvard Gazette online.

A five-year retrospective

Under the five-year deanship of Elena Kagan ’86, Harvard Law School experienced remarkable growth and change, including a headline-making reform of the curriculum, an impressive expansion of the faculty, a major initiative to support public service, and the design of a new building complex now under construction.

Guide to the nomination of Elena Kagan ’86 to the Supreme Court

The HLS Library has prepared a guide to the nomination of Elena Kagan, including a brief overview of Kagan’s legal career and publications, as well as selected biographical materials, news coverage of her nomination, and additional resources.

For additional guides to this nomination, see the Georgetown Law Library Supreme Court Nominations Research Guide, the Law Library of Congress guide, and the University of Michigan Law Library guide.