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Justice Kagan and Diversity on the Bench

We’re taking a moment this week to mark the first anniversary of Elena Kagan’s swearing-in to the United States Supreme Court. It’s a big week for women on the bench—Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrated two years on the court this Monday—and it’s been a big couple of years for less-than-traditional judicial nominees. Since taking office, President Obama has nominated more openly gay Americans for federal court judgeships than any other president, nearly half of his confirmed judicial nominees are women (the highest percentage ever), and for the first time in history, three women serve simultaneously on the Supreme Court.

President Obama became familiar with Justice Kagan and her qualifications firsthand during their shared time on the faculty at Harvard Law School (Kagan would go on to become the institution’s first female dean). Her confirmation hearings included testimony from members of Team Kagan such as the National Women’s Law Center, which praised her record on reproductive rights, civil rights, and advocacy on behalf of victims of domestic violence.

In her remarks as a nominee, Justice Kagan thanked Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg for providing inspiration to women in the legal profession. She also explained what draws her to law: its promise of equal justice.

“What the rule of law does,” Kagan said, “is nothing less than to secure for each of us what our Constitution calls ‘the blessings of liberty,’ those rights and freedoms, that promise of equality that have defined this nation since its founding.”

Justice Kagan’s appointment marks an exciting shift in the composition of the nation’s highest bench. What are your favorite landmarks in diversity since President Obama took office?

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