Calling her "one of the nation's foremost legal minds," President Obama has nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his choice to replace retiring Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens. If confirmed, Kagan will be the youngest justice and the fourth woman to serve on the nation's highest court.
Kagan is the the first woman to serve as Solicitor General of the United States and was previously the first female dean of Harvard Law School. In some ways Kagan would bring diversity to the court, and in other ways she is much like the other justices. Like all of the other justices, she's an Ivy League graduate, but she would be the first justice since William H. Rehnquist and Lewis Powell, both nominated in 1972, to arrive on the high court with no previous judicial experience. Additionally, as she is Jewish, her addition to the bench would mean that all the justices would be either Catholic or Jewish with no Protestants serving for the first time in the history of the court.
In her role as Solicitor General, Kagan argues cases before the Supreme Court. Like Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked, she would likely have to recuse herself on early cases during her tenure because of her involvement.
Her lack of a judicial record does not mean, however, that she will escape scrutiny and criticism, as it has already begun. Writing in the New York Times, Peter Baker and Jeff Zeleny report:
With all signs pointing to a Kagan nomination, critics have been pre-emptively attacking her in the days leading up to the president's announcement. Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, writing on The Daily Beast, compared her to Harriet E. Miers, whose nomination by President George W. Bush collapsed amid an uprising among conservatives who considered her unqualified and not demonstrably committed to their judicial philosophy.
M. Edward Whelan III, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, wrote on National Review's Web site that even Ms. Kagan’s nonjudicial experience was inadequate. "Kagan may well have less experience relevant to the work of being a justice than any entering justice in decades," Mr. Whelan wrote.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, some liberals are unenthusiastic about her nomination because of her perceived support for strong executive power.
Despite its lack of relevance to the job, Kagan's personal life has also been the source of considerable pre-nomination discussion and speculation. Two male bloggers have written about their disappointment that Kagan is not a mother. Additionally she is unmarried and some bloggers have written that she is rumored to be a lesbian though the White House has denied this.
As the White House hopes to have Kagan confirmed by the August Congressional recess so that she can join the court when it starts its new term in October, there will be much more discussion of Kagan's record and views to come.
What do you think? Is Kagan the right person for the job?Additional Reading
@Karoli is trying to understand liberal opposition to Kagan and is sharing links about Kagan as she finds them.
Linda R. Monk, J.D. at The Huffington Post: Elena Kagan As the Next Earl Warren
Why progressives aren't cheering for Solicitor General Elena Kagan as President Obama's next nominee for the Supreme Court is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery. She's got just the personality, intelligence, and experience to shape the Court for decades, at a time when the legislative agenda of the president is going to face the most hostile justices since FDR's court-packing days. Indeed, Kagan has the potential to become another Earl Warren in her ability to unite the Court in seminal decisions on divisive social issues.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon: The case against Elena Kagan
James Doty at Salon: The liberal case against Kagan is overstated
Walter Dellinger at Slate: Elena Kagan Is a Progressive on Executive Power
Tom Goldstein at SCOTUS Blog: Where We Go From Here
In the event of a Kagan nomination, here is how the nomination process is likely to play out. I divide it into process and substance.
The Washington Post has a timline of Elena Kagan's career
Michael Roston at True/Slant: Elena Kagan sends us on the way to a motherless Supreme Court
Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast: Put a Mom on the Court
Michele Martin on NPR's Tell Me More: Should Next Supreme Court Nominee Be A Mom?
Tami at What Tami Said: Daily Beast's Peter Beinart suggests uterus check for female SCOTUS nominees
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