The U.S. Senate confirmed former Harvard Law School (HLS) dean Elena Kagan today (Aug. 5) as the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court. In a series of interviews, Kagan’s former Harvard colleagues, former teachers, and friends lauded the choice, provided insights into the woman they’ve known for decades, and explained why they believe she will be a standout jurist.The onetime colleagues agreed that Kagan has a razor-sharp mind, which they said is matched by a bright sense of humor, graciousness, thoughtfulness, and patience, along with a love of sports. They described her as a fine conversationalist and storyteller with a quick wit, to the point where a seat next to Kagan at a dinner party is a coveted spot.HLS Dean Martha Minow, who first knew Kagan when the new judge was a student, called her “incredibly impressive even back then.” Minow, who is also the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law, said that when Kagan eventually became dean, “She judiciously used humor to lighten potentially tense moments in faculty meetings, and has a real knack for drawing people out in conversation. She is unpretentious and warm. At heart, she is a problem solver, and she can’t help getting to the heart of any problem through her questions.”A New York City native, Kagan earned an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University in 1981. In 1983 she received a master’s in philosophy from Oxford University. She attended HLS and graduated in 1986 with honors. She clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. From 1991 to 1995, Kagan taught at the University of Chicago Law School. From 1995 to 1999, she served the Clinton administration as associate counsel, deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council.Kagan returned to HLS as a visiting law professor from 1999 to 2001. In 2001 she became a professor of law, and in 2003 was named the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law. Kagan was HLS dean of the Faculty of Law from 2003 to 2009. In 2009, she was confirmed as U.S. solicitor general. The Senate approved her nomination to the Supreme Court by a 63 to 37 vote.Known as a powerful dean, Kagan increased financial aid for law students entering public service after graduation, hired an array of prominent faculty members, and excelled at fundraising for the School. She also took steps to improve student life, bringing a volleyball court and skating rink to campus, and providing free coffee.Dean Kagan also “very vigorously pushed to diversify the Law School student body even more, by recruiting some of the best and brightest students of color from around the country and around the world,” said Charles Ogletree, the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law.Her former colleagues gave Kagan high marks for her intellect, analytical skills, and readiness for the top court. They said Kagan, an authority on administrative and constitutional law, has the ability to absorb and process what most people would consider an overwhelming amount of information, and then sift through it to create a nuanced analysis.Carol Steiker, the Howard J. and Katherine W. Aibel Professor of Law and a longtime friend of Kagan, said her colleague was thoughtful and was quick to thank those who helped her or the School, sending them kind, personalized notes. She often surprised colleagues with considerate gifts.“She is very curious about the world and about other people … she is also very funnyand very down-to-earth,” said Steiker.Steiker first met Kagan under somewhat adversarial circumstances. As students, both were vying for the top spot at the Harvard Law Review and ended up in a runoff, one that Steiker won. Unsuccessful candidates in such tightly contested elections sometimes got “sulky, undermining, and retaliatory,” Steiker said. But not Kagan.Steiker said the runoff “was competitive without it at all being ugly. It says a lot about Elena … [she] does not lose very often in her life.”Kagan went on to take the second-in-command slot at the journal, and the two women quickly grew close, toiling tirelessly through the summer to finish leftover publication work so they could launch their first issue on time that fall.“We were very good friends and colleagues in Law School,” Steiker added.Later, when both clerked in Washington for Marshall, Steiker said that when she and some colleagues would take a break by working out to a Jane Fonda exercise tape, Kagan would play basketball on the top floor of the Supreme Court Building, on the aptly named “Highest Court in the Land.”“Don’t let the term ‘Shorty’ fool you,” said Ogletree of the nickname given to Kagan by Marshall. “She has a devastating layup and jump shot.”Ogletree said that when Kagan came to HLS he quickly learned not to play basketball with her for fear she would pull a tricky move and he would “end up getting called with a flagrant foul.”Echoing Ogletree, Steiker stayed away from another game involving Kagan: poker. “She used to play poker, and I quickly learned not to do that because she is a good poker player,” Steiker said.Kagan’s insight and intellect were evident early to a young HLS professor who had her as a student. Richard Fallon, the Ralph S. Tyler Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law, was in his third year teaching “The Federal Courts and the Federal System,” a class involving dense, intricate rules and technical details.“I can remember seeing Elena’s hand go up and feeling my heart skip a beat, and a little bit of wobble in my knees, because I knew that what she was going to say was going to be incisive, but it was incisive not in the ‘Hey professor, I’ve got a neat thing to throw into the mix [kind of way],’ but some probing question. … I was still in the stage where students were hitting me with things I hadn’t thought about before, and Elena hit me with as many intelligent, cogent points that I had never considered before as any student that I have ever had.“From the beginning of the time that I knew her, I have thought that she had one of the most powerful, analytical intelligences of anybody I have ever met.”Eventually, Fallon served on a number of academic appointment committees with Kagan when she was dean. He said she had an impressive ability to grasp not only the academic work of a faculty candidate, but also to absorb the comments made by each committee member before passing her own judgment.Though he was quick to add that assessing the scholarship or strengths of a potential hire is not the same as deciding legal cases, Fallon said Kagan brought a “thoughtfulness and judiciousness” to the deliberative process.She had an ability “not to commit herself until she had heard all the arguments, until she had heard everything that anybody else had to say, and then a capacity to take in everything that other people had had to say, respond to it in a thoughtful way, and make up her mind decisively.”Ogletree, who thinks Kagan will be a moderate justice who will “work within the constraints of the law,” said her intellectual curiosity is one of her key qualifications for the job.“There is no area where she won’t have an intellectual curiosity, and a willingness to dive in and learn more about the role the Constitution plays in so many areas.”Steiker recalled that Kagan, when she worked at the Law Review, was “an extraordinary editor, just a brilliant mind, who could map out an idea like some amazing cartographer. Her mind could see the whole thing, the whole shape of a complicated piece of legal scholarship or set of arguments.”“One of my colleagues once described another colleague as having a mind like a bell,” Steiker said, “and I always thought of that description as being very apt for Elena, just the clarity of her thinking, even about issues that are extraordinarily complex. It’s really striking.”
LONDON — As the weather warms up in the United Kingdom, so has the political climate. Britain is on the verge of a historic vote on whether or not to stay in the European Union, an election which many are calling the “Brexit” vote.A Brexit — a portmanteau of “British exit” — would create questions about the strength of the European Union, which has seen recent economic crises in Greece and Cyprus. The U.K. has been a member of the European Union — formerly called the European Community — since 1973, but does not use the Euro currency.Keith Surridge, a professor of British history at Notre Dame’s London Global Gateway, said the push for a Brexit arose due to fears about immigration.“They’ve been swamped by a load of foreigners,” he said. “Some call it an invasion in certain parts of the country where there’s small communities that have had a lot of Eastern Europeans arrive recently.“There are others who look at immigration and say there’s just too much of it and it’s affecting the economy, the [National Health Service] — that sort of thing. Britain can’t cope with the influx of people. I think immigration is at the heart of it.”Surridge also said leaders of the Brexit movement, including former mayor of London Boris Johnson and head of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage, have argued the EU is not helping Britain’s economy.“On the other end, there’s a view that the European Union is economically moribund,” he said. “It’s not growing — the problems in the Eurozone have shown that — and that it’s holding Britain back. Britain has a more dynamic economy that’s been growing in the last few years, unlike virtually all the other European economies.”Josh Copeland, rector of Notre Dame’s housing in London at Conway Hall, said the financial implications are perhaps the most important aspect of the referendum, and a Brexit could have a negative impact on the world economy.“When the polls for [a Brexit] have gone up and it looks like the leave campaign is going to win, worldwide markets have started to slip,” Copeland said. “And when it seems like the remain campaign has actually been polling stronger in the last few days, markets have stabilized around the world.”Copeland said if the U.K. voted to leave the EU, several financial questions would be raised about London’s status in the international banking community.“[International banks] couldn’t and wouldn’t necessarily want to do business here anymore, so things would change,” he said. “We don’t know how [much] — that’s the thing.”But unlike most votes, Surridge said the Brexit referendum will not play out solely on party lines. He believes many Labour Party members will vote to leave, which is against the party’s official position.“It’s becoming a class issue,” he said. “I think many working-class communities, who you would normally expect to vote Labour, are voting to leave.”Surridge also said leaders are working across their typical party boundaries in order to achieve their desired outcome.“I think [Prime Minister] David Cameron, the leader of the conservatives, campaigned with the leader of the Scottish National Party to remain. Normally they’re deadly enemies,” he said.The passions the referendum has sparked are also unusual, and the debate has turned venomous, Surridge said.“When we have general elections here, you don’t get that sort of nastiness generally,” Surridge said. “Here, it’s become much more emotive … People are being called liars.”Tensions were also heightened by the murder of Jo Cox, a Labour member of Parliament. Cox was killed last Thursday in West Yorkshire, allegedly by Thomas Mair.How much the killing had to do with the Brexit vote remains to be determined, but it has certainly caused voters to rethink their positions heading intoThursday, Copeland said.“It is getting really heated, and the tragic murder of [Cox] this week by someone who seems to espouse some really right-wing, fascist ideas — it’s a bit of a scary time, and everyone’s had to stop and take stock of what the conversations actually look like in this campaign, which has been tough,” Copeland said.The effect a potential Brexit would haveon future Notre Dame students studying abroad down the road appears to be minimal, according to Copeland.“Our visas, for those people who need visas here — and a lot of [our] students are on an arrangement that’s not strictly a visa, because we’ve worked that out with the border agency — it could be impacted a bit,” he said.The impact a Brexit would have on the financial market is more likely to affect students staying in the U.K., Copeland said.“[It] will change everything down to the value of the change in your pocket to what it takes for us to run a program like this,” he said. “I have no doubt that Notre Dame will see our way through it, but every business and every academic institution could be impacted one way or another.”Surridge said a Brexit may even have a positive consequences for students studying abroad.“The remainers say that if we do have Brexit, that will affect the value of the pound — and it will go down,” he said. “And that can only be good for students coming here and their parents paying for it.”Mark Pruitt, a sophomore currently participating in Notre Dame’s London program, said the impact of the campaigns have been minimal during his travel experience.“You see the campaigns, but you ignore it, because it’s not relevant to you,” he said. “It seems like it’s everywhere. It seems like it’s a huge deal. People on both sides are warning of negative consequences if things don’t go their way, but it doesn’t seem like that’s for students studying abroad, more for people living here.”And although students currently studying in Notre Dame’s London program will not be impacted by the results of the vote, that has not kept some of them from staying informed on the issues and drawing their own conclusions.“From a business perspective, [I think] the only option is to stay. From a sovereignty and British pride perspective, there is incentive to escape the rules and regulations of the EU,” Justin McCurdy, a sophomore also studying in the program, said. “I would vote to stay. For economics, global stability, and hegemony, it just makes sense to stay. The results of leaving are just a big question mark, and it’s not worth it.”Greg Trinkl, another sophomore in the University’s London program, also weighed the economic ramifications of the vote.“Most publications here in the United Kingdom highlight the long-term implications of the Brexit, which could be disastrous to global deal-making and economic efficiency,” Trinkl said. “That’s why I think they should remain.”Surridge said the vote will be very close, but predicts his home country will stay in the EU.“I think it’s going to be a lot closer than people thought,” Surridge said. “I think the fear factor will be tipped in favor of remain.”Tags: Boris Johnson, Brexit, David Cameron, European Union, Jo Cox, Nigel Farage, referendum, United Kingdom
Janet Rowe did not fly to Jamaica just to vote. But when she realised her name was on the voters’ list, the US$197.50 fee she paid to change her ticket “was a small price to pay to support her party”, Rowe said. “The ticket was actually US$430 plus what I paid to change it.” But that cost couldn’t keep her from the polling station at the Content Gap Primary School in East Rural St. Andrew. “When my boss wished me a safe travel I didn’t tell her I wasn’t coming back just yet.” Instead, “I called one of my co-workers and asked her to work for me tomorrow and I will work back for her on Saturday,” she said with a satisfied grin, showing her ink-stained index finger. Her ticket was changed from February 23 to 26. The constituency is being contested by the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Juliet Holness (wife of opposition leader Andrew Holness) and the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Imani Duncan Price. Holness went into the elections with a five percentage point lead over her rival.