President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court last Monday to replace liberal retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. At 50, Kagan would be the court's youngest justice and give it three female members for the first time. If confirmed by the Senate, she would become only the fourth female justice in history.
Kagan would be the first justice without judicial experience in almost 40 years. The last two were William H. Rehnquist and Lewis F. Powell Jr., both of whom joined the court in 1972. Currently, the other justices all served previously as federal appeals court judges. Kagan was named to a federal appeals court by President Bill Clinton, but the Senate never brought that nomination to a vote. This means that Kagan has a smaller paper trail than other recent nominees since there are no prior decisions to scrutinize.
Kagan holds a bachelor's degree from Princeton, a master's degree from Oxford and a law degree from Harvard. She was the first female dean of Harvard Law School and the first woman to serve as the top Supreme Court lawyer for any administration. Kagan has clerked for Thurgood Marshall and worked for Bill Clinton. In her current job, Kagan represents the U.S. government and defends acts of Congress before the Supreme Court and decides when to appeal lower court rulings.