WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, a person familiar with the president’s thinking said Sunday night.
The move positions the court to have three female justices for the first time in history.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been made public. Obama will announce his choice at 10 a.m. today in the East Room of the White House.
Known as sharp and politically savvy, Kagan has led a blazing legal career: first female dean of Harvard Law School, first woman to serve as the top Supreme Court lawyer for any administration, and now first in Obama’s mind to succeed legendary Justice John Paul Stevens.
At 50 years old, Kagan would be the youngest justice on the court, one of many factors working in her favor. She has the chance to extend Obama’s legacy for a generation.
Kagan has clerked for Thurgood Marshall, worked for Bill Clinton and earned a stellar reputation as a student, teacher and manager of the elite academic world. Her standing has risen in Obama’s eyes as his government’s lawyer before the high court over the last year.
Yet Kagan would be the first justice without judicial experience in almost 40 years. All of the three other finalists she beat out for the job are federal appeals court judges, and all nine of the current justices served on the federal bench before being elevated.
Kagan’s fate will be up to a Senate dominated by Democrats, who with 59 votes have more than enough to confirm her, even though they are one shy of being able to halt any Republican stalling effort.
For the second straight summer, the nation can expect an intense Supreme Court confirmation debate even though, barring a surprise, Kagan is likely to emerge as a justice.
Republicans have shown no signs in advance that they would try to prevent a vote on Kagan, but they are certain to grill her in confirmation hearings over her experience, her thin record of legal writings and her objections to the military’s policy about gays.
When she was confirmed as solicitor general in 2009, only seven Republicans backed her.
Kagan is known for having won over liberal and conservative faculty at the difficult-to-unite Harvard Law School, where she served as dean for nearly six years.
In her current job, Kagan represents the U.S. government and defends acts of Congress before the Supreme Court and decides when to appeal lower court rulings.