In the wake of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced retirement, Solicitor General Elena Kagan has quickly emerged as a top pick on just about every list of President Barack Obama’s potential nominees.
Kagan became the first female Solicitor General — the number 4 position at the Justice Department charged with arguing cases before the Supreme Court — in March of last year. She made her debut before the court in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which the government lost.
The former Harvard Law dean’s name was also in the mix of possible nominees to replace Justice David Souter last spring. She served as associate White House counsel during the Clinton administration.
Kagan is respected by lawyers and politicians on both sides of the aisle, but liberals have raised concerns that she is more conservative than Stevens and could shift the direction of the Supreme Court for decades, The Huffington Post said Friday.
“For Obama, perhaps the most alluring element of a Kagan selection is that the work for the president would be minimal. The White House did an extensive vetting of her record during the last court opening. The president even met privately with her to discuss the opening. Since then, she’s served in his administration. Were she to be nominated, the surprises in her confirmation process should be minimal,” Huffington Post wrote.
Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald said replacing Stevens with Kagan “would shift the Court substantially to the right on a litany of key issues (at least as much as the shift accomplished by George Bush’s selection of the right-wing ideologue Sam Alito to replace the more moderate Sandra Day O’Connor).”
Kagan’s Senate confirmation process in 2009 was not without controversy. Conservatives were upset by Kagan’s opposition to the Solomon Amendment, which required universities receiving federal funds to allow military recruiters on campus. Kagan opposed the amendment because of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gay service members. She was eventually confirmed, 61-31, with six Republican votes. At least of those — Republican Jon Kyl — has said he might not support her for the Supreme Court.
Kagan chose a portrait of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, whom she clerked for, to adorn her office wall.