President Barack Obama nominated his solicitor general – former Harvard dean Elena Kagan – to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S Supreme Court.
Kagan is likely to be confirmed for the lifetime appointment by the U.S. Senate, which has 59 Democrats, but before that she faces tough questions during confirmation hearings.
Kagan, 50, would be the youngest justice on the Supreme Court.
She was the first female dean of Harvard Law School and has a reputation as a facilitator, a person who can bring people of opposing or competing views together.
“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 stated. “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.”
The nomination drew praise from national LGBT organizations.
“The U.S. Supreme Court decides cases that intimately affect the lives of all Americans,” said Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign. “We are confident that Elena Kagan has a demonstrated understanding and commitment to protecting the liberty and equality of all Americans, including LGBT Americans.”
“Her legal background and experience are impressive. She has been a trailblazer in her profession and a distinguished legal scholar for many years,” said Kevin Cathcart of Lambda Legal.
Kagan has worked in judicial, legislative and executive branches of the federal government. But she has not served as a judge, and Republican senators have raised concerns about her lack of experience on the bench.
Her supporters, however, countered that William H. Rehnquist and Lewis F. Powell Jr. also had not served as judges before their appointments to the Court in 1972.
Kagan would be the fourth woman to serve on the Court. The others are retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and current Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
Kagan is not married. She was born in New York City, earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton, a master’s from Oxford and a law degree from Harvard.
As the dean of that law school, she continued a policy barring military recruitment on campus because the Armed Forces discriminates against gays and lesbians, violating the school’s anti-discrimination policy, according to Kagan.