Supreme Court Nominations

Kagan E-Mails Reveal a ‘Sharp-Elbowed and Sometimes Salty-Tongued Lawyer’


In 11,000 e-mails released by the Clinton Presidential Library on Friday afternoon, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan emerges as politically savvy, sometimes sarcastic and given to an occasional swear word.

The New York Times and the Washington Post both had stories on the e-mails, the third and last group of documents released by the library covering the four years that Kagan worked in the White House counsel’s office and as deputy director for domestic policy.

According to the Times, the e-mails “offered glimpses of a savvy, sharp-elbowed and sometimes salty-tongued lawyer at ease with politics, policy and bureaucratic infighting.” The Post calls the e-mails “tough, self-assured—and sometimes acerbic” and says they portray a confident aide “whose sharpest skills were her political antennae.”

Both stories found an e-mail in which Kagan rebuked a colleague. “Not to carp,” she wrote, “but on memos to the president, it’s usually wise to spellcheck.”

The Times found at least three e-mails “using variations on the two most common swear words.” One of them, also cited by the Post, read “”Un[expletive]believable.” It was a reply to a colleague’s explanation of a change in legislation about worker protections.

A separate story by the Washington Post says government records released on Saturday show Kagan had little input into resolving the controversy over military recruiting at Harvard Law School. After Kagan became law dean in 2003, she opposed and briefly barred military recruiters because the armed forces discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, a violation of the law school’s recruiting policy. But she relented, allowing the recruiters on campus rather than lose government funding under the Solomon Amendment.

The decision to allow the recruiters “was not primarily hers,” the Post says. Instead the controversy was resolved by Harvard President Lawrence Summers.

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