President Obama Monday will officially nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, his second selection for the high court. Multiple news outlets and the Associated Press are reporting that Kagan, 50, is Obama’s choice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
She has never tried a case in court but was considered an early favorite for the job, causing intense speculation Friday as the White House defended her record and some publications said it was highly likely she’d be his pick. Kagan served as a clerk in the late 1980s for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and was a clerk for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. She worked at a private Washington law firm before taking a job in the Clinton administration.
Kagan is the first woman to hold the solicitor general post and until she took that position she was dean of Harvard Law School, also the first female to hold that job. Under her six-year tenure Kagan helped the law campus open new buildings and she updated the curriculum. She also was recognized for fundraising prowess. But Kagan banned military recruiters from campus, a sure lightning rod issue the GOP will focus on during her confirmation hearings.
She was a Harvard professor with courses on administrative law, constitutional law, civil procedure and issues involving the separation of powers until becoming dean in 2003. She was nominated to the Harvard dean position by Larry Summers, then Harvard president and now chief Obama economic adviser. She served in the Clinton White House’s Domestic Policy Council.
She and Obama both taught at University of Chicago law school. She attended Princeton and Oxford and, like Obama, received her law degree from Harvard. She also was one of the editors of the Harvard Law Review.
In March 2009 Kagan was confirmed by the senate on a 61-31 vote. Seven Republicans voted in favor of her nomination, joining all of the Democrats. (Sen. Arlen Specter - then a Republican - was among Kagan’s opponents.) Her nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Clinton in 1999 was blocked by Republicans.
Kagan has been a target of progressives since her name first surfaced as a contender last spring, and the White House issued an unusual defense against some unflattering articles about her record on diversity.
The White House has said they want to see Obama’s nominee confirmed by the end of the summer to be in place for the next court session. Kagan was chosen over three other finalists: D.C. Circuit Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Judge Sidney Thomas and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood, a favorite of progressives. Also on the longish short list were Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), Leah Ward Sears, formerly chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit Court of of Appeals Judge Ann Claire Williams.
Read more about Kagan’s background here.