May 10, 2010

Kagan, O'Connor, Discuss Women Advocates of the Supreme Court

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Solicitor General Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick to fill the seat of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, told an audience of lawyers, jurists and First Amendment advocates last January at the Newseum that unlike men, women in public life must be conscious of how others perceive them.

"Whether it's advocates before the Supreme Court or whether it's political figures … I think you need to be very aware of how other people are perceiving you," she said.

Kagan was one of three panelists who participated in the Jan. 28 program "Women Advocates of the Supreme Court Bar: Their Day in Court," which was moderated by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The program was sponsored by the Supreme Court Fellows Program Alumni Association and the Newseum's First Amendment Center. The other participants were Wendy Webster Williams, a professor of law at Georgetown University and Maureen Mahoney, a partner at Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C.

The Supreme Court advocates discussed the subtle barriers women continue to face more than 130 years after Belva Lockwood became the first Court advocate in 1879.

"In the end," Kagan added, female advocates "have to be yourself and have people accept you on your own terms."

Kagan, 50, argued her first case before the Supreme Court in 2009. If confirmed, she will be the youngest associate justice and the third woman on the current court, and the fourth woman in the court's history.

Related story: Women Jurists Hold Court at Newseum

Related video: Women Advocates of the Supreme Court Bar: Their Day in Court

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