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POLITICS

Elena Kagan supremely happy on the Court

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Yeas and Nays,Politics,Nikki Schwab

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has a hunch about what her lifetime claim to fame might be. 'Twas during her confirmation hearings when Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., discussing the 2009 underwear bomber, asked where she spent Christmas. She replied, that like all Jews, she was probably at a Chinese restaurant. "It's probably the thing I'll say in my entire life that gets quoted the most," she noted Thursday night at an appearance at the Sixth & I Synagogue. "Some people ask me was that prepared -- do you think the White House would let me say something like that?"

The day after, Kagan recalled getting pictures of a sign hung up by a Manhattan Chinese restaurant that said "We Love You Too Elena Kagan." "Pretty much everybody in New York sent me a picture of that sign and then I was confirmed and the same Chinese restaurant put up a big sign that said 'Mazel Tov,'" she said. The funniest part? "I don't think I was ever there," she said of the restaurant.

Kagan is the most recent justice to be appointed to the Court. "It's a good gig because it's unbelievably intellectually interesting but you are also doing something that you realize matters in the world," she noted.

Having clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall 25 years before she got the job herself, she was surprised by how little things changed. "We communicate with each other very differently than we did 25 years ago -- well, not at the Supreme Court," Kagan said, explaining that the clerks have email, but the justices don't email one another. Instead, a chamber's aid walks memos around. "And at first I thought that is the most bizarre thing -- you know, on the other hand, how many emails have you sent that you wish you hadn't sent?" she said. "It turns out actually sort of staring at a piece of paper, looking at it, and then having the opportunity to race down the hall and say, 'wait, come back' is probably a good thing."

Kagan is also happy that she sits on a Supreme Court "that increasingly looks like the world." Though there's still work to do. "Six people from Harvard and three people from Yale and Justice Ginsburg spent one year at Columbia, you know, slumming it," she joked.

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