Crib Notes: What You Should Know About Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan

Crib Notes: What You Should Know About Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan

The Supreme Court cases that you most frequently hear about usually involve hot-button issues like free speech or voter's rights. But for every headline-making decision there are countless others that can affect your wallet, especially if you hold shares in a corporation. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has a huge impact on how business is done in the country—so it's a good idea to get to know its most recent nominee, Elena Kagen.

The mainstream press has cast current SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan as a bit of a wild card. As solicitor general of the United States, she argues the administration's position before the Court, but because Kagan has never served as a judge, there are no previous legal rulings to examine for hints as to how she may rule on the bench. (She wouldn't be the first Justice-Who-Was-Never-A-Judge: There are 40 previous Supreme Court justices who warmed the bench for the first time, including former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.)

Kagan's age (she's only 50) means that she'll have a long and influential stint on the bench. So what do we know about her business leanings?

She Knows Corporate America.

Although she's the former dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan hasn't just lived in an academic bubble. She represented business clients at a D.C. law firm and has served on the advisory board of Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute. Although eyebrows raise nowadays at any Goldman association, Kagan's work focused on public policy and had nothing to do with the financial maneuverings that currently have the firm in hot water.

She Supports Shareholder Rights.

As Solicitor General, Kagan recently argued a case before SCOTUS against corporations buying political campaign ads, saying that it's difficult for shareholders to keep tabs on the political positions of multiple companies. (Sad fact: Only 73 of the S&P 500 companies currently disclose their political contributions to their shareholders.) While the court ruled 5-4 against in that instance, she won two other cases that supported the rights of shareholders over the interest of companies.

She's Even-Handed.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have praised Kagan for her recruitment of conservative scholars to the left-leaning Harvard Law faculty and her ability to bridge differences across the ideological spectrum.

The Bottom Line.

No one has enough information to speculate whether Kagan is "pro-business" or "pro-consumer" (sad that those two are divergent, but that's an another story...), but the general consensus is that she doesn't seem to lean too far in either direction.


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