Ivy League Bragging Rights: Elena Kagan’s Nomination Means One-Third of Supreme Court Could Hail from Princeton University

By Matt Loffman

May 10, 2010 11:50am

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:

If President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, is confirmed, for the first time in history there will be three women on the nation's highest court.

But here is another factoid that may be met with cheers in New Jersey — if confirmed, Kagan also would be the third graduate of Princeton University on the current Supreme Court and the third consecutive nominee to hail from the Ivy League school.

In 1981, Kagan graduated from Princeton, where she served as the editorial chairman of The Daily Princetonian, the campus newspaper. She went on to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1986.

Her nomination follows those of Justice Samuel Alito (Princeton ’72) and Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Princeton ’76). Both Alito and Sotomayor went on to Yale Law School.

Princeton does not have a law school, like other top schools in the Ivy League, but Kagan would be the university’s 11th graduate to sit on the court.

In fact in 1842, three Supreme Court Justices hailed from Princeton, which was known then as the College of New Jersey – Justices Smith Thompson, James Moore Wayne and Peter Daniel, though Daniel did not actually graduate from the university. 

Michael Yaroshefsky, who serves as the president of Princeton’s Undergraduate Student Government, told ABC News that it was “striking” that the last three nominees hailed from Princeton.

“When [Justices] Alito and Sotomayor were nominated, it was exciting for Princeton, but now with Kagan's nomination, it has made us pause and consider the connection,” he said. “Our campus has an unofficial motto, ‘In the Nation's service and the service of all nations,’ and these three alumni have taken that first part to heart.”
Yaroshefsky said that the lack of a law school is not a negative for Princeton.

“We may not have a law school or a business school, but maybe that is a good thing for Princeton undergraduates; it shifts the focus to undergraduate education,” Yaroshefsky said.

While this may be seen as a victory for Princeton, Harvard Law School is also crowing after Obama’s announcement that he would nominate Kagan for the Supreme Court.

Kagan is not just a graduate of Harvard Law – she also served as the school’s dean from 2003-2009.

“This is a day on which the Harvard Law School community is immensely proud. President Obama—himself a son of Harvard Law School– has nominated to the highest court in the land a leader of tremendous vision who has been supremely dedicated to justice and the rule of law throughout a distinguished career marked by the passionate pursuit of excellence," Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow said in a statement.
Kagan would join four other graduates of Harvard Law School currently on the court – Chief Justice John G. Roberts ’79, Justice Anthony Kennedy ’61, Justice Stephen Breyer ’64, and Justice Antonin Scalia ’60

-Karen Travers

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