Is she qualified?

My question is not whether Elena Kagan is qualified for the Court.  My question is whether she is qualified for tenure at a major law school.  When she was made a tenured professor at the University of Chicago, she had (as far as I can tell) only 3 5 publications (see correction below).  One of them was a book review (which counts for exactly zero in most fields) and one was a University of Chicago Law Review Article.

I’ve always been biased against law review articles.  First, they are reviewed by eager-to-please law students, not by peers.  Second, law professors submit their articles to multiple law reviews, ignoring the usual academic practice of one journal at a time (peers would never tolerate these multiple submissions, which is why they rely on cheap student labor).  This bugs me.  And since this article was published by students at her own law school, I view it basically as a glorified Professor of the Year Award.

I remember having similar questions when looking at Barak Obama’s academic  record and wondering how he managed to get hired at Chicago.

I think that the legal profession weighs federal clerkships, especially at the Supreme Court, as super-duper-important.  Whatever.  To me, that is a little like giving someone tenure because he/she was a really good research assistant in grad school.

So, qualified for the Court?  Maybe.  Qualified for tenure?  I wouldn’t vote for her.

Correction: I had some counting problems here (my bad).  According to her Harvard web page, she had 5 publications through 1995 (the year she was awarded tenure) and 2 in 1996, which should probably count in that they were likely forthcoming when the determination was made.  In total she had 2 book reviews, 2 U. of Chicago publications and three others through 1996.   My original doubts remain, but my math was way off.

Others have shared my doubts: “She was granted tenure in 1995, despite the reservations of some colleagues who thought she had not published enough,” according to the New York Times.

4 thoughts on “Is she qualified?

  1. Well, I guess one of the relevant questions is how good those early articles were.

    According to Eugene Volokh, one of the later ones (post-tenure) was very, very important. Indeed, it was the 6th most cited law review article published since 2000.

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