Elena Kagan Nominated to the Supreme Court

Elena Kagan
AP

Updated at 11 a.m. ET

President Obama today announced his nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, calling her "one of the nation's foremost legal minds."

Kagan would be the fourth woman to sit on the Supreme Court if she is confirmed and the third woman to join the current Court. Mr. Obama called Kagan -- who is the nation's first female solicitor general and the first woman who served as dean of Harvard Law School -- a "trailblazing leader."

"She has won accolades from observers across the ideological spectrum," Mr. Obama said today, "not just for her intellect and record of achievement, but also for her temperament."

He praised her fair mindedness and her skill as a consensus builder, highlighting her effort as dean to bring more conservative scholars to Harvard.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Elena Kagan

"She believes, as I do, that exposure to a broad array of perspectives is the foundation not just for a sound legal education, but of a successful life in the law," Mr. Obama said.

The president also praised her passion for the law, which he called "anything but academic." Kagan's understanding of the law, Mr. Obama said, "not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people, has animated every step of Elena's career."

He specifically cited Kagan's work defending the government's position in the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court last year, commenting that she "defended bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections."

Even though legal analysts rightly predicted the government would lose the case, Kagan chose to make it the first she argued as solicitor general.

"I think that says a great deal not just about Elena's tenacity but about her commitment to serving the American people," Mr. Obama said today.

Unlike all nine of the current Supreme Court justices, Kagan has no prior experience as a judge. Mr. Obama likely sees this as a strength, since she will bring a new perspective to the Court. Others, however, are wary of her lack of experience and the lack of evidence available to illuminate how she would serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

Her lack of experience is one of a few issues she will likely have to address during her confirmation hearings.

Defending the federal government's positions before the Supreme Court as solicitor general has given Kagan an "ever deeper and richer" appreciation of the value of that "extraordinary institution," she said today.

Mr. Obama urged the Senate to act in a "bipartisan fashion" and confirm Kagan to the Court "as swiftly as possible."

At just 50 years old, Kagan would be the youngest person on the Court, and she could serve for decades -- leaving Mr. Obama a lasting legacy on the Court.

More Coverage of Kagan's Nomination:

Chip Reid: Why Kagan? In A Word: "Leadership"
Washington Unplugged: Elena Kagan Beyond the Gavel
Jan Crawford: Kagan Is a Strategic, Not Political Pick
Kagan "Honored and Humbled" by Nomination
Peter Maer: Obama Seeks to Frame Kagan Debate on on His Terms
Photos: Elena Kagan
GOP Hits Kagan's Lack of Judicial Experience
Obama Says Kagan "Embodies Excellence"
Jan Crawford, Bob Schieffer on Why Obama Nominated Kagan
Four Potential Confirmation Hurdles
The Left Struggles to Define Elena Kagan
Jim Inhofe First Republican to Oppose Kagan
CBSNews.com Special Report: Elena Kagan

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