Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 18:08 UK

Elena Kagan nominated by Obama for Supreme Court


Elena Kagan said she was honoured and humbled by the nomination

US President Barack Obama has nominated Solicitor-General Elena Kagan as the 112th justice to the Supreme Court.

Ms Kagan, a 50-year-old former Harvard Law School dean, was at Mr Obama's side at the White House when he announced, as expected, that she was his choice.

She would be the youngest member and third woman on the current court, as well as the first justice in almost four decades not to have been a judge.

Republicans warned she would not receive automatic approval.

The Senate must confirm whether the nominee - who has spent much of her professional life in academia - can replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, who is considered one of the court's leading liberals.

Gay rights advocate

Democrats welcomed the nomination, but Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Ms Kagan's "brief litigation experience" would be reviewed.

Mark Mardell
Will Republicans start a 'Get Shorty!' campaign?
Mark Mardell
BBC North America editor

If confirmed, she will become the fourth woman justice on the Supreme Court, following Sonia Sotomayor - also chosen by Mr Obama - Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor, now retired.

Introducing Ms Kagan in the White House East Room as "my friend", Mr Obama said she would bring excellence, independence, integrity and passion to the post.

The US president said she "is widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost legal minds".

Ms Kagan said she was "honoured and humbled by this nomination".

"I look forward to working with the Senate and thank you, Mr President, for this honour of a lifetime," she said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said Ms Kagan should be confirmed in the post by early September, after a hearing expected to last a week.

Once Justice Stevens retires, the Supreme Court will have no protestant judges.

Ms Kagan would be the third Jewish justice on the current court, along with six Catholics.

Born 28 April, 1960; grew up in New York City
Like President Obama, served on the Harvard Law Review
Worked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall
Served in the Clinton administration 1995-1999
Appointed Dean of Harvard Law School in 2003
Confirmed as US solicitor general March 2009

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington says Ms Kagan is regarded as a liberal on most issues.

But she has worked with conservatives and even attracted a liberal backlash against her support for continuing Bush administration policies on state secrets and the use of military commissions to try terrorism suspects, our correspondent adds.

Her staunch advocacy of gay rights may concern Republicans.

She went through a fairly smooth confirmation process in the Senate for her current job this year, when seven Republicans voted for her.

With 59 votes, Senate Democrats would have enough to confirm her, but they would be one short of being able to halt blocking or stalling tactics by any Republican senators.

Early in her career Ms Kagan was a clerk for a US Court of Appeals judge and later for former Justice Thurgood Marshall.

And like Mr Obama, she worked on the prestigious Harvard Law Review as a student.

Our correspondent says that selection of a Supreme Court justice gives a president the opportunity to influence US public life for decades, as the justices are not bound by term limits.

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Houston Chronicle Kagan fits Obama's vision for the Supreme Court - 5 hrs ago
The Independent Obama plays it safe with latest pick for Supreme Court bench - 9 hrs ago Announcing High Court Nomination, Obama Cites Kagan's Temperament, Intellect - 10 hrs ago Obama taps Kagan to give court historic 3rd female - 10 hrs ago Obama calls court pick Kagan a consensus builder - 12 hrs ago

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