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President Obama Introduces Kagan as a ‘Trailblazing Leader’

Posted May 10, 2010 9:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Corrected: President Obama has introduced his U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a person who embodies the same “excellence, independence, integrity and passion for the law” as the man she would replace, Justice John Paul Stevens.

In his announcement this morning, Obama called Stevens a "consistent voice of reason" and said he believes Kagan will provide the same type of leadership on the court as Stevens displayed. He also referred to the historic place Kagan would have on the court, where she would be one of three women justices along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, confirmed last year.

Obama said Kagan has made a career of public service and was a "trailblazing leader" as dean of Harvard Law School. She is respected not just for her intellect but also for her fair-mindedness, Obama said. He pointed to her leadership at Harvard Law as an example, saying she sought to recruit conservative scholars and encouraged healthy debate.

The president also praised Kagan as a "superb solicitor general" who chose to make the Citizens United campaign finance case her first argument before the Supreme Court even though observers expected the government position to fail. Powerful interests should not be allowed to drown out voices of citizens, Obama said, and Kagan sought to advance that position.

Obama described Kagan as the granddaughter of immigrants. Her father was a housing lawyer and her mother a teacher. Kagan also referred to her parents, saying she regretted they were no longer alive and could not see her as she is nominated. Both emphasized public service, she said, and both were the first in their families to attend college.

Kagan thanked Obama for the “honor of a lifetime” and said she viewed the court as an extraordinary institution that advances the tenets of the Constitution and upholds the rule of law. She said she relished her time as solicitor general, and that representing the United States before the Supreme Court is “the most thrilling and the most humbling task that a lawyer can perform.”

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog notes that Kagan was beaming as Obama announced her nomination. A woman who was once nicknamed “Shorty,” she stepped up on risers as she stood to speak.

An administration official told Kagan that she was Obama's choice for the Supreme Court at 8 p.m. Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has released a statement saying the Senate should confirm Kagan before Labor Day, the Associated Press reports. "Our constituents deserve a civil and thoughtful debate on this nomination, followed by an up-or-down vote," he said.

SCOTUSblog covered the nomination in its live blog. CBS News also had the story. The Washington Post has a transcript of Obama's remarks.

Additional coverage from ABAJournal.com:

An Intellectual Kagan Had Supreme Court Ambitions in High School, Classmate Says

Is There a ‘Wise Latina’-Type Revelation Lurking in Kagan’s Background?

“Reports: Obama to Pick Kagan for Supreme Court

Think Kagan Is Anti-Military and Pro-Executive Power? Think Again, Epic Post Asserts

"Ex-SG Says Kagan Is Progressive on Executive Power; Some Liberals Think Otherwise"

"Kagan Appears Popular with Justices, But ‘Tangles Regularly’ with Roberts"

"Kagan Critics Focus On Her Gay-Rights Stance in Military Recruiting Suit"

"Who Will Replace Stevens? Three Likely Picks Emerge, as Others Engage in ‘Bizarro’ Speculation"

Post corrected at 1:05 p.m. to say that Obama praised Stevens as a "consistent voice of reason."

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