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Fellow deans embrace Kagan for court

WASHINGTON — A broad group of legal academics endorsed Elena Kagan Tuesday for the Supreme Court.

Dean Phillip J. Closius of the University of Baltimore School of Law, Dean Phoebe A. Haddon of the University of Maryland School of Law, and Baltimore’s former mayor, Dean Kurt L. Schmoke of the Howard University School of Law, were among the 69 law school deans from around the country who wrote to the chairman and top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee in praise of Kagan, herself 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.

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.

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 one-time dean.

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

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

Kagan “is known to us as a person of unimpeachable integrity,” the law deans’ 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 law deans from a wide-ranging assortment of schools around the country, from the Ivy League to state schools, and large well-known institutions to small, obscure ones.

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