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Author Seth Stern Recalls Justice Elena Kagan's Law School Days

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    Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 29, 2010, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on her nomination. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    Newly anointed Justice Elena Kagan appears much more mild-mannered now than she did during her Harvard Law School days, recalled author and former student Seth Stern at a book bash for his tome "Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion" over the weekend.

    At a party in honor of co-authors Stern and Stephen Wermiel at Politics and Prose on Friday, Stern said he recalled a stricter Kagan during his tenure at the prestigious Ivy League law school.

    "I was there on Monday for the debut of Elena Kagan, who jumped right in with a bunch of questions during the first oral argument she participated in as Justice," he said exclusively to Niteside. "I can say she was a much gentler questioner than what I remember sitting in her administrative law class at Harvard Law School."

    He added, "She is expected to replace her predecessor, John Paul Stevens, on the Court's liberal wing but it's hard to predict exactly how she will do given she's never served as a judge before."

    Stern and Wermiel co-authored a biography of Justice William Brennan Jr., who granted Wermiel exclusive access to all of his papers and provided 60 hours of interviews to the scribe near the end of his tenure. Stern joined Wermiel as co-author in 2006.

    "The result is a rare look at the justice's life and what exactly explains his success over such a long period of time," Stern said. "Justice Brennan was an enormously influential liberal justice during his 34 terms on the Court between 1956 and1990."  

    Most interesting, said Stern, was how Brennan reconciled his conservative personal views with his liberal opinions.

    "He was a champion of women's rights who was reluctant to hire female clerks in his own chambers. He signed the Roe v. Wade abortion decision but was personally uncomfortable with abortion. He championed the rights of the press, but no one could make him more furious than reporters," Stern said.