Obama expected to nominate Kagan to Supreme Court

Chris Rizo May 10, 2010, 12:01am

Elena Kagan

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-President Barack Obama later today is widely expected to announce his nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If confirmed by the Senate, Kagan, the 50-year-old U.S. solicitor general, would be the 112th justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. She would fill the vacancy soon-to-be-left by retiring Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, 90, who has reliably provided the court's liberal bloc with a vote.

Replacing Stevens with Kagan is not expected to alter the ideological balance on the court. But observers note that since Kagan is just 50, the former Harvard Law School dean could be on the Supreme Court for decades to come.

She would be the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court, and the current panel's youngest member. If confirmed, Kagan would be the first U.S. Supreme Court justice since 1971 who has no judicial experience.

If confirmed, she would have to sit out on a bevy of cases because of her involvement with them as solicitor general. To serve as the Obama administration's voice before the U.S. Supreme Court as solicitor general, Kagan gained Senate confirmation last year, in a vote of 61 to 31.

She was one of the frontrunners in Obama's first pick to the Supreme Court last year, when he nominated Sonia Sotomayor, who served on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before being confirmed by the Senate in August.

On the shortlist this time were 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood, 9th Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas and U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Merrick Garland.

Kagan has a history of serving in senior positions in Washington.

In 1993, then-Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hired her to serve as a special counsel during Senate confirmation proceedings for President Bill Clinton's first Supreme Court nominee, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Then, beginning in 1995, she worked in the Clinton administration as associate counsel and domestic policy adviser. She was nominated Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but Republicans stalled the nomination. She returned to Harvard a year later.

In 2003, Harvard's then-President Larry Summers, now director of the White House National Economic Council, named Kagan dean of Harvard Law School. Kagan and Obama were law school professors together at the University of Chicago in the early 1990s.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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