Indiana Daily Student

Obama chooses Elena Kagan for Supreme Court nomination

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court on Monday, declaring the former Harvard Law School dean “one of the nation’s foremost legal minds.” She would be the court’s youngest justice and give it three female members for the first time.

The nomination to replace liberal retiring Justice John Paul Stevens set the stage for a potentially bruising confirmation battle, though mathematically Democrats should be able to prevail in the end.

At 50, Kagan is relatively young for the lifetime post and could help shape the high court’s decisions for decades. If confirmed by the Senate, she would become only the fourth female justice in history.

Obama cited what he called Kagan’s “openness to a broad array of viewpoints” and her “fair mindedness.”

Standing beside the president in the East Room of the White House, Kagan said she was “honored and humbled by this nomination.”

“I look forward to working with the Senate in the next stage of this process, and I thank you again, Mr. President, for this honor of a lifetime,” she said.

Republicans are expected to criticize her for attempting to bar military recruiters from the Harvard Law campus while she was dean. That issue was used against her by critics during her confirmation hearing last year for her current post.

Democratic officials said Kagan would begin making the rounds of senators’ offices on Wednesday.

With control of 59 votes in the Senate, Democrats should be able to win confirmation. However, if all 41 Republicans vote together, they could delay a vote with a filibuster.
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 decisions at Harvard.

The senator who will preside over her confirmation hearing, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said, “The Senate should confirm Ms. Kagan before” Labor Day.

“Our constituents deserve a civil and thoughtful debate on this nomination, followed by an up-or-down vote,” said the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said his party would make sure there was a “thorough process, not a rush to judgment” on the nomination.
“Judges must not be a rubber stamp for any administration. Judges must not walk into court with a preconceived idea of who should win,” he said, adding that Republicans would have a vigorous debate on that principle.

Obama introduced Kagan as “my friend.”

“Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds. She’s an acclaimed legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law. She is a former White House aide, with a life- long commitment to public service and a firm grasp of the nexus and boundaries between our three branches of government,” Obama said.

Kagan would become the only justice who had no prior experience as a judge. The other justices all served previously as federal appeals court judges. She was named to a federal appeals court by President Bill Clinton, but the Senate never brought that nomination to a vote.

That means Kagan has a smaller paper trail than other recent nominees since there are no prior decisions to scrutinize.

Kagan is known as sharp and politically savvy and has enjoyed a blazing legal career. She was the first female dean of Harvard Law School and the first woman to serve as the top Supreme Court lawyer for any administration.

A source close to the selection process said a central element in Obama’s choice was Kagan’s reputation for bringing together people of competing views and earning their respect.

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. Yet she would be the first justice without judicial experience in almost 40 years. The last two were William H. Rehnquist and Lewis F. Powell Jr., both of whom joined the court in 1972.

Democrats went 15 years without a Supreme Court appointment until Obama chose federal appellate judge Sonia Sotomayor last year to succeed retiring Justice David Souter. Just 16 months in office, Obama has a second opportunity with Kagan.

Kagan, who is unmarried, was born in New York City. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton, a master’s degree from Oxford and a law degree from Harvard.

Before she served as a clerk for Justice Marshall, she clerked for federal Appeals Court Judge Abner Mikva, who later became an important political mentor to Obama in Chicago.

Kagan and Obama both taught at the University of Chicago Law School in the early 1990s.

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.

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