WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the nation’s 112th justice, choosing his own chief advocate before the Supreme Court to join it in ruling on cases critical to his view of the country’s future, Democrats close to the White House said on Sunday.
After a monthlong search, Obama informed Kagan and his advisers on Sunday of his choice to succeed the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. He plans to announce the nomination at 10 a.m. Monday in the East Room of the White House with Kagan by his side, said the Democrats, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the decision before it was formally made public.
In settling on Kagan, the president chose a well-regarded 50-year-old lawyer who served as a staff member in all three branches of government and was the first woman to be dean of Harvard Law School. If confirmed, she would be the youngest member and the third woman on the current court, as well as the first justice in nearly four decades without any prior judicial experience.
That lack of time on the bench may both help and hurt her confirmation prospects, allowing critics to question whether she is truly qualified while denying them a lengthy judicial paper trail filled with ammunition for attacks. As solicitor general, Kagan has represented the government before the Supreme Court for the past year, but her own views are to a large extent a matter of supposition.
Perhaps as a result, some on both sides of the ideological aisle are suspicious of her. Liberals dislike her support for strong executive power and her outreach to conservatives while running the law school. Activists on the right have attacked her for briefly barring military recruiters from a campus facility because the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military violated the school’s anti-discrimination policy.
Replacing Stevens with Kagan presumably would not alter the broad ideological balance on the court, but her relative youth means that she could have an influence on the court for decades to come, underscoring the stakes involved.