Elena Kagan to be picked for Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) - Solicitor General Elena Kagan will be
nominated Monday to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama, a
person familiar with the president's thinking says, positioning the
high court to have three women justices for the first time.

Obama plans to announce his choice at 10 a.m. in the East Room
of the White House. The source spoke on condition of anonymity
because the decision, which came after a monthlong search, had not
been made public. Shortly before 8 a.m., Kagan emerged from her
Washington, D.C., apartment, got into the back seat of a vehicle
and was driven away. She did not acknowledge the photographers and
reporters who had gathered to await her appearance.

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, first woman to serve as the top Supreme Court lawyer for
any administration, and now first in Obama's mind to succeed
legendary liberal Justice John Paul Stevens.

At 50 years old, Kagan would be the youngest justice on the
court, which would give her the opportunity to extend Obama's
legacy for a generation.

Kagan must first win Senate confirmation.

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 came to the fore as a candidate who had worked closely
with all three branches of government, a legal mind with both a
sense of modesty and sense of humor. The source spoke on condition
of anonymity to discuss factors that led to Kagan's impending
nomination.

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. The last two were William H. Rehnquist and
Lewis F. Powell Jr., both of whom joined the court in 1972.

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 expected an
intense Supreme Court confirmation debate even though, barring a
surprise, Kagan is likely to emerge as a justice.

Supreme Court justices wield enormous power over the daily life
of Americans. Any one of them can cast the deciding vote on matters
of life and death, individual freedoms and government power.
Presidents serve four-year terms; justices have tenure for life.

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.

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, under different
circumstances.

Obama's decision last year centered much on the compelling
narrative of Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice,
who grew up in a housing project and overcame hardship.

This year, Obama particularly wanted someone who could provide
leadership and help sway fellow justices toward a majority opinion.
The president has grown vocal in his concern that the
conservative-tilting court is giving too little voice to average
people.

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.

Her background, including time as a lawyer and a key domestic
policy aide in President Clinton's White House, would give the
court a different perspective.

The White House is expected to frame Kagan's lack of service as
a judge in upbeat terms, underscoring that there are many qualified
routes to the top of the judiciary.

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.

She served as a Supreme Court clerk for one of her legal heroes,
Justice Thurgood Marshall. And before that, 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.

Kagan has the high task of following Stevens, who leaves a
legacy that includes the preservation of abortion rights,
protection of consumer rights and limits on the death penalty and
executive power. He used his seniority and his smarts to form
majority votes.

Rick Garnett, a professor of law and associate dean of
University of Notre Dame Law School, voiced the concern of many
conservatives.

"Future elections might undo some of the president's policies,
but his more liberal views about the Constitution, the powers of
the national government, and the role of unelected federal judges,
are now being locked in securely," Garnett said in a statement.

Kagan would be the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court,
following current Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor
and retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

She would be the third Jewish justice along with six Catholics.
With Stevens' retirement, the court will have no Protestants, the
most prevalent denomination in the United States.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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