President Barack Obama has nominated Elena Kagan, his solicitor general, to be the next Supreme Court justice, replacing the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. If confirmed, we will have three women on the High Court: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993, and Sonia Sotomayor, appointed last year by Obama.
Kagan, 50, a New Yorker, would be the youngest justice, and while the Republicans will probably offer some resistance, many Democrats feel she will be confirmed with bipartisan support. This feeling is perhaps based on the fact that she was vetted already before being installed as solicitor general.
“Elena is widely regarded as one of the best legal minds of her generation–earning praise from across the ideological spectrum throughout her career,” Obama said upon nominating her earlier this week. “Above all, she is a trailblazer. She wasn’t just the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School–she was one of its most beloved and successful leaders, building a reputation for openness to other viewpoints and skill in working with others to build consensus.
“These were some of the many reasons why I selected her to be my solicitor general, the nation’s chief advocate–the first woman to hold that post as well,” Obama continued.
Michael Steele, president of the Republican National Committee, was less excited about the nomination, which comes as no surprise.
“Elena Kagan…will need to demonstrate that she is committed to upholding the vision of our Founding Fathers, who wrote a Constitution meant to limit the power of government, not expand it,” Steele said in a press statement.
Steele said, “Given Kagan’s opposition to allowing military recruiters access to her law school’s campus, her endorsement of the liberal agenda and her support for statements suggesting that the Constitution ‘as originally drafted and conceived, was “defective,”‘ you can expect Senate Republicans to respectfully raise serious and tough questions to ensure the American people can thoroughly and thoughtfully examine Kagan’s qualifications and legal philosophy before she is confirmed to a lifetime appointment.”
Other Republicans have also raised questions about her qualifications, noting that she has never been a judge, but neither were Earl Warren, Hugo Black and William Rehnquist.
Kagan grew up on the West Side of the city, attended Hunter College High School and did her undergraduate work at Princeton, where she was a classmate of Eliot Spitzer. Don’t be surprised if the Republicans dig into these teen years and ask her about the senior thesis she did on socialism.
And Kagan’s opposition to those who would bar gays and lesbians from the armed services is sure to be a topic of discussion. This is about as close as the press has gotten to the rumor that she may be a lesbian. One fact is clear–she has never been married.
Obama selected Kagan for a number of reasons. He hopes she can be persuasive with Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, and that she might have some sway with Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court’s swing vote.
Kagan is Jewish, which means that for the first time, the Court is without a Protestant. Filling Justice Stevens’ liberal footprint will not be easy. But Obama seems optimistic. “I knew that the Court would be losing a standard bearer. And I felt a responsibility to nominate an individual capable of being that same guiding force, a consistent voice of reason on the Court,” he said. “I am certain I have made the right choice. As you learn more about Elena, I am confident you’ll see what I do–that she is a voice we need on the Supreme Court.”
Governor David Paterson agrees that Obama has made the right choice.
“Throughout Ms. Kagan’s remarkable career,” Paterson said, “she has demonstrated great leadership, intelligence and devotion to the American judicial system. Ms. Kagan began her legal career after graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she was a supervising editor of the Law Review. She clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall….Ms. Kagan’s impressive career is a testament to her devotion to the law and has provided her with the critical experiences that will serve her well as a justice of the Supreme Court.”