Elie Mystal, who graduated from law school at the same time as I did, has bad memories of Elena Kagan from when he had her for Civ Pro as a 1L. [UPDATE: Read The Whole Thing, the commenters remind me to say.] For what it’s worth, here are my own impressions of Elena Kagan:
- I had Kagan for Administrative Law in Spring 2002. She showed sound judgment early on by giving me a high grade in the class, and wrote me a very gracious letter afterwards (which no doubt will fetch a high price on eBay) in which she added, by hand: “I loved everything you said in class. Thanks for making things interesting. EK”.
Slightly more substantively:
- I enjoyed her class a lot, and she was very good at eliciting all the relevant points of view through questioning. I recall saying some fairly libertarian stuff in the class, which she welcomed.
- My scribbled Admin notes for Tuesday, February 12, 2002, say the following. (This was after a discussion of Myers, Humphrey’s Executor, and the “unitary executive theory.”) “Kagan thinks this is all total garbage — so manipulable. Pitch for honesty: everyone needs one area where policy views ≠ constitutional views. Kagan is a total unitarian for policy reasons. But doesn’t think this is a constitutional command. The constitution says so remarkably little that to take this issue away from political decisionmaking is a mistake — courts shouldn’t make these decisions.”
- As has been well documented elsewhere, as dean, Kagan was a good friend (though not a fellow traveler!) of the Federalist Society and of conservative/libertarian professors.
- In particular — and despite her presumably pro-gun-control views (see the David Kopel post below), she was a good friend of the HLS Target Shooting Club, which I founded in Fall 2001 and was the president of for two years. At this link to my old web site for the club, you can see a link (now defunct) to the video of an April 8, 2003 debate on gun control, co-sponsored by my club, and featuring Eugene, Alan Dershowitz, and Dennis Henigan of the Brady Center. Kagan was glad to agree to moderate — this was before she became dean — and her appearance at the debate was one of her first acts after becoming dean.
So there you have it. I know very little first-hand about her actual policy views, except for the snippet above about her views on the unitary executive theory; otherwise, she’s a great person, a great professor, (as far as I was in a position to experience) a great dean, and a friend of campus conservatives and libertarians at a time when, unfortunately, you can’t take that for granted.