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Law professors vouch for Kagan on diversity

By Krissah Thompson
A growing number of prominent law professors are disputing the idea that Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan treated minorities unfairly while she was at dean of Harvard Law School. Randall Kennedy, a professor at the law school, wrote Tuesday on the Huffington Post that Kagan:

should be welcomed enthusiastically by those who are especially concerned with advancing the cause of racial justice in America. She is knowledgeable about the history of our nation's racial problems and committed to a vision of racial inclusiveness that reflects the best of our national traditions.

Kennedy has known Kagan for 25 years and said she was in one of the first classes he taught on race relations at the law school. He wrote her recommendation to clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court.

Long-time Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree also has staunchly defended Kagan's record. In an interview Tuesday, he said that Kagan made a point of coming to the annual barbecue he holds for new African American law students at the university. "After welcoming the entire student body, she would come and spend the day and engage each student in dialogue," he said. "There's never been a doubt in my mind about her commitment to diversity."

Kagan chose not to have the traditional chair as the dean at Harvard, Ogletree added. Instead, she became the first holder of the Charles Hamilton Houston Chair, which was created in honor of the late NAACP Litigation Director, who played a significant role in dismantling Jim Crow laws.

The defenses of Kagan's record were prompted by a blog posting by Duke University law professor Guy-Uriel Charles, who along with three other law professors -- Anupam Chander at the University of California at Davis, Angela Onwuachi-Willig at the University of Iowa and Luis Fuentes-Rohwer at Indiana University -- sent a letter to the White House questioning Kagan's record on diversity.

While Kagan led the school from 2003 to 2009, 29 faculty members were hired: Twenty-three were white men, five were white women and one was an Asian American woman. Ogletree emphasized that Kagan was influential but did not have the final say on those hires.

Another prominent African American law scholar, Derrick Bell, said that Kagan "is probably a good choice given the confirmation process." Bell, who was not at Harvard during Kagan's tenure, was the first tenured black law professor at Harvard and famously left the university in 1992 to protest the lack of women of color on the faculty.

By Krissah Thompson  |  May 12, 2010; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Culture Wars , Supreme Court , The Courts  
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What I would like to know is this: what was the racial/ethnic composition of the rest of the law school faculty, not just the ones Kagan hired? What percentage of the faculty was minority at the time Kagan arrived? Haven't seen an article yet that addresses that point.

If her critics are going to use quotas against her, we need to know the full story about the quotas at Harvard Law before Kagan walked into the movie.

Posted by: Dema | May 13, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Diversity !! The holiest of holies for the left. The only true metric of worthiness that can exist in their myopic and closed-minded world. Let us all bow down at the altar of------Diversity !

Posted by: dan1138 | May 12, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Who knows how attorney Kagan will work to oversee the constitution, now that it's her turn. Colleagues whose recommendation is touted as meaning something come out in her support saying, she's all right with them. A little interesting chatter gets thrown into the wind, like what means her sexual life to anyone who is not involved with her personally. Does it matter to anyone? Does it matter to the redheads? I do think it benefits me, however, on a nostalgic level, to be reminded of who Thurgood Marshall was, in fact, even so obliquely as through his association with the nominated supreme court justice. Justice Marshall was some kind of guy. When Marshall was on the court, he gave a lot of young people a chance, regardless of where they fell into categories of race or sex, and those people were better off because of what he did. He was an example. He gave a woman a chance. What he did speaks for itself. The mere mention of the candidate's position as an understudy with Justice Marshall seems pretty widely regarded as a measure of her worth. Which of us is so highly regarded as that, by anybody?

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Posted by: itkonlyyou56 | May 12, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Watching leftist academics debate who is further left. So entertaining.

Posted by: Craig_Colgan | May 12, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

I read that a complaint of plagerism was brought against Ogletree but Kagen gave just a slap on the wrist as a sanction.

why wouldn't Ogletree write praise Kagn for heaven's sake

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | May 12, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

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