The eight most recent solicitors general -- including immediate predecessors Gregory Garre and Paul Clement -- have joined in a letter giving strong backing to Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, President Obama's pick for the only position in government whose occupant is required by statute to be "learned in the law."
In the letter, sent to the Judiciary Committee today and obtained by Legal Times, the eight former SGs state, "We are confident that Dean Kagan will bring distinction to the office, continue its highest traditions and be a forceful advocate for the United States before the Supreme Court."
Highlighting Kagan's "breadth of experience and a history of great accomplishment in the law," the letter reviews her record as a Supreme Court law clerk, private practitioner, executive branch official and "legal scholar of the first rank." But most of all, they say, Kagan "has been regarded as one of the most successful law school deans in modern history."
Her tenure at Harvard, and its scholarly and administrative duties, "suggest that she will excel at the important job of melding the views of various agencies and departments into coherent positions that advance the best interests of the national government," according to the letter. "She will be a strong voice for the United States before the Supreme Court. Her brilliant intellect will be respected by the justices, and her directness, candor and frank analysis will make her an especially effective advocate."
The main signers of the letter are former Clinton acting solicitor general Walter Dellinger, and George W. Bush solicitor general Theodore Olson -- highlighting the broad spectrum of views represented. In addition to Garre and Clement, Charles Fried, Kenneth Starr, Drew Days III and Seth Waxman also signed on.
Dellinger, now chair of the appellate practrice at O'Melveny & Myers, was asked this morning whether the joint letter was aimed at blunting concern about Kagan's lack of appellate experience. Dellinger said no, indicating that it was motivated instead by the "considerable enthusiasm" shared by the former SGs as well as other current and former lawyers in the office about Kagan's nomination. "It took less than two hours to gather all the former SGs for the letter, and they were spread over three continents."
No date has been announced for Kagan's confirmation hearing, but it is expected to take place in mid-February. Longtime career deputy Edwin Kneedler is acting solicitor general in the meantime.