Elena Kagan posed for her high school yearbook photo wearing a judge's robe and holding a gavel. At 17, she already knew she wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice. “That was a goal from the very beginning,” a classmate at her Upper West Side New York high school for standout students tells the New York Times. Since then she's charted what the Times calls a “careful, some might say, calculated path,” showing plenty of talent, but little ideology. She's "one of the most strategic people I’ve ever met, and that’s true across lots of aspects of her life,” a law professor tells the Times. “She is very effective at playing her cards in every setting I’ve seen.”
Kagan has worked as a clerk for Thurgood Marshall, fought Big Tobacco for Bill Clinton—even though she's an occasional smoker—and served as the, to quote the Times again, “opera-loving, poker-playing, glass-ceiling-shattering first woman” dean of Harvard Law School, where she hired more conservative professors to balance the faculty ideologically. She's currently the US Solicitor General, another first for a woman. Her most recent experience with the Supreme Court? Arguing—and losing—the Citizens United vs. FEC case.