This morning, President Barack Obama selected his second Supreme Court justice. The choice? His solicitor general, Elena Kagan. Before joining the Obama Administration, she was dean of Harvard Law. She was the first woman to serve in both of those roles.
Previously, she'd been a clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall, a deputy White House counsel in the Clinton administration, and a professor at the University of Chicago Law School -- where her colleagues included this future president.
Another of those colleagues at Chicago was Lawrence Lessig, whom she recruited to join her at Harvard two years ago - and who spoke at the Bus Project conference this spring in Bend.
Over at the Huffington Post, Lessig makes the case for Kagan - arguing that she's uniquely suited to turning the four-vote progressive minority on the court into a five-vote operational majority:
Her most important work over the past two decades has been in contexts where she has had to move people to see things as she did. And through that experience, she has developed a sixth sense for the strategy of an argument. She matches that insight with a toughness that can get what she wants done. That doesn't mean triangulating. It doesn't mean "compromise." It means finding a way to move others to the answer you believe is right. ...
[T]he core of Kagan's experience over the past two decades has been all about moving people of different beliefs to the position she believes is correct. Not by compromise, or caving, but by insight and strength. I've seen her flip the other side.
I've seen her earn the respect of people who disagree with her, and not by either running to a corner to pontificate, or by caving on every important issue. Kagan can see a fight; if she can see a path through that fight, keeping her position in tact, she can execute on it.
And even when a victory is obviously not in the cards, she will engage the other side boldly. It is extremely rare for a Solicitor General to tell a justice he is wrong (as Kagan did to Scalia in the argument in Citizens United). But for those of us who know her, that flash of directness and courage was perfectly in character for this woman who knows what she wants, and how to get it. ...
The bottom line calculus for me in this case could not be clearer. Obama's second Supreme Court appointment will still leave the balance of power in the Supreme Court tilted to the right. What progressives need most now is someone with the right views, and a deep sense of how to fight to get a majority to recognize those views as law. It's not enough to appoint someone who will cast the right vote. We need someone who will make majorities.