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Law school deans embrace Kagan for court

In a letter to the chairman and top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the leading legal academics say Kagan has first-rate legal skills, a respected body of work on constitutional law, enormous intelligence, and a flair for forging coalitions.
Elena Kagan, Tom Udall
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan meets with Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. on Capitol Hill in Washington. Sixty-nine law school deans from around the country are endorsing Kagan for the post.Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Tuesday received the support of a broad group of law school deans who praised her legal skills, intelligence and ability to build coalitions.

Sixty-nine law school deans from around the country wrote to the Democratic chairman and the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to endorse the nomination of Kagan, a former Harvard Law School dean.

One conservative who left his name off the letter — Dean Joseph Kearney of the Marquette University Law School — is scheduled to join signatories on a conference call Tuesday to announce that he, too, backs President Barack Obama's choice to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Kearney clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's conservative icon.

The letter calls Kagan "superbly qualified," saying she has first-rate legal skills, a respected body of work on constitutional law, enormous intelligence and a flair for forging coalitions.

Kagan "is known to us as a person of unimpeachable integrity," the letter concludes. "She will inspire those around her to pursue law and justice in a way that makes us proud."

It's signed by Stanford Law School Dean Larry D. Kramer on behalf of deans from an assortment of schools, from the Ivy League to state schools and large, well-known institutions to small, obscure ones.

The Judiciary panel is set to begin hearings on Kagan's nomination on June 28.

The White House has gone out of its way to highlight conservative support for Kagan. It featured a conservative former student of Kagan's on a conference call last month to showcase Harvard law graduates' positive views of their former dean.

Similarly, Kearney is scheduled to join two liberal deans, Martha Minow of Harvard and Evan H. Caminker of the University of Michigan Law School, on Tuesday's call.

A handful of other conservatives have written to the Judiciary panel endorsing Kagan, including Miguel Estrada, a failed federal appeals court nominee chosen by President George W. Bush.

Brian Fitzpatrick, another former Scalia clerk and one-time Republican aide who now teaches at Vanderbilt University Law School, also wrote to the Judiciary panel last week endorsing Kagan.

Fitzpatrick, who was one of Kagan's law students at Harvard, called her "a person of utmost integrity, extraordinary legal talent and relentless generosity" and said he could "imagine few people who will better serve the American people as a justice."

Former solicitors general from Republican and Democratic administrations are putting together a letter of support for Kagan, although it has not yet been made public. Several of them, including conservatives Ted Olson and Ken Starr, endorsed Kagan last year when the Senate was considering her nomination for solicitor general.