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Obama to Pick Solicitor General Kagan as Supreme Court Nominee

05/10/2010

From Associated Press

President Obama has picked Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, NBC News reported Sunday, choosing a relative moderate who may still face questions from Republican Senators on gays in the military.

White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the NBC report, which gave no source for the information.

[Updated 8:10 p.m.: The Associated Press has also reported Kagan’s nomination, citing a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been made public. Obama will announce his choice at 10 a.m. Monday in the East Room of the White House, says the AP.]

Kagan’s appointment will buck a four-decade trend if she is confirmed by the Senate; all justices in recent decades have been judges.

Kagan has served as a White House advisor during Bill Clinton’s presidency and a Harvard Law School dean but never as a judge.

If confirmed, Kagan would be the fourth woman ever to be a Supreme Court justice.

Her nomination is unlikely to cause a damaging fight in the Senate ahead of congressional mid-term elections in November or distract the Obama administration from other issues like jobs, financial regulation and climate change legislation.

But Kagan could still have to deal with vigorous questioning by Republicans during her Senate confirmation on hot-button issues like her opposition to on-campus military recruiting at Harvard because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bars gays from serving openly in the military.

Obama appointed Kagan last year as the first female solicitor general, representing the U.S. government before the Supreme Court. Her initial Supreme Court argument in September was her first in any court.

Obama he wants his choice approved before the start of the high court’s upcoming term in October.

The retirement of liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, 90, who has been on the court for nearly 35 years, takes effect at the end of the current term in late June.

Democrats control 59 of the 100 Senate seats. A simple majority is needed for confirmation.

Kagan would not be expected to change the court’s basic ideological balance. Like Stevens, she would probably side in most cases with the three other liberal justices on the court, which is controlled by a five-member conservative majority.

She would join Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who Obama appointed last year, as the court’s female justices.

The last two justices who had not been judges, William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell, joined the Supreme Court in 1972.

— Reuters

Photo: Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Credit: Associated Press

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