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Justice Kagan

The Supreme Court gets its eighth Jewish member

by
Marc Tracy
August 05, 2010
Justice Elena Kagan.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Justice Elena Kagan.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate has just voted to confirm Elena Kagan, Barack Obama’s first solicitor general, to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. She will be the third current Jewish justice and the eighth in the High Court’s history. She will also be the fourth woman ever to be a Supreme Court Justice (and the third on the current court).

In an essay published this afternoon in Tablet Magazine, David E.Y. Sarna argues that Kagan’s Jewish background—and specifically her (somewhat controversial) reverence for Israel judge Aharon Barak—could provide the basis for a welcome approach to precedent as a living, evolving body of jurisprudence:

It is Jewish law’s inherent elasticity and flexibility—bounded by the Torah but expressed in the freewheeling chaos of ongoing study—that has enabled Jewish law to renew itself and remain relevant after thousands of years. This might work in American law, as well.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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