Law school deans from across country endorse Kagan, former Harvard Law dean, for Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — A broad group of law school deans endorsed Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Tuesday, praising her legal skills, intelligence and ability to build coalitions.

Sixty-nine law school deans from around the country wrote to the Democratic chairman and the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to endorse the nomination of Kagan, a former Harvard Law School dean.

One conservative who left his name off the letter — Dean Joseph Kearney of the Marquette University Law School — joined the signatories on a conference call organized by the White House to announce that he, too, backs President Barack Obama's choice to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Kearney clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's conservative icon. He said Kagan showed strong leadership while at Harvard — considered a liberal bastion — by appointing conservatives to the faculty.

"Her having sought to ensure that the faculty was representative of mainstream legal thought in a broader way than was true before she became dean is a pretty powerful matter. It demonstrates that she is intellectually engaged with the law as it is today," said Kearney, who said his policy is not to sign group letters.

Still, Kearney said he shared the views of the other law deans, who in their letter called Kagan "superbly qualified" and wrote that she had first-rate legal skills, a respected body of work on constitutional law, enormous intelligence and a flair for forging coalitions.

Kagan "is known to us as a person of unimpeachable integrity," the letter concludes. "She will inspire those around her to pursue law and justice in a way that makes us proud."

It's signed by Stanford Law School Dean Larry D. Kramer on behalf of deans from an assortment of schools, from the Ivy League to state schools and large, well-known institutions to small, obscure ones.

The Judiciary panel is set to begin hearings on Kagan's nomination on June 28.

The White House has gone out of its way to highlight conservative support for Kagan. It featured a conservative former student of Kagan's on a conference call last month to showcase Harvard law graduates' positive views of their former dean.

Similarly, Kearney joined two liberal deans, Martha Minow of Harvard and Evan H. Caminker of the University of Michigan Law School, on Tuesday's call. Kearney said he regards Kagan's views as mainstream.

A handful of other conservatives have written to the Judiciary panel endorsing Kagan, including Miguel Estrada, a failed federal appeals court nominee chosen by President George W. Bush.

Brian Fitzpatrick, another former Scalia clerk and one-time Republican aide who now teaches at Vanderbilt University Law School, also wrote to the Judiciary panel last week endorsing Kagan.

Fitzpatrick, who was one of Kagan's law students at Harvard, called her "a person of utmost integrity, extraordinary legal talent and relentless generosity" and said he could "imagine few people who will better serve the American people as a justice."

Former solicitors general from Republican and Democratic administrations are putting together a letter of support for Kagan, although it has not yet been made public. Several of them, including conservatives Ted Olson and Ken Starr, endorsed Kagan last year when the Senate was considering her nomination for solicitor general.


Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report.