Fourth Woman Ever Joins US Supreme Court

elena-kagan.jpgThe Senate confirmed U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan on Thursday as the 112th justice to the Supreme Court, making her the fourth woman to sit on the court.

On a vote of 63 to 37, Kagan, who will succeed retired justice John Paul Stevens, became the second member President Obama has placed on the high court. One year ago, Sonia Sotomayor won confirmation as the court's first Latina.

Some Democrats have said they hope that the lifetime appointment of Kagan, a consensus-building liberal, will nudge the court slightly to the left.

Her confirmation is considered unlikely to immediately shift the court's ideology, however. Although she is expected to fit comfortably within the liberal wing of the court, she does not seem to be as liberal as Stevens was during his final years on the bench.
Along with her relative youth, Kagan, 50, brings a résumé unlike any of those with whom she will serve.

She will be the first appointee since 1972 to join the court with no judicial experience. Other justices have corporate law backgrounds or a long record of arguing before the court. Kagan worked briefly for a law firm and argued her first case before an appellate court 11 months ago. It happened to be before the Supreme Court, the first of six cases she argued as the nation's first female solicitor general.

Five Senate Republicans supported Kagan. One Democrat, Ben Nelson (Neb.), opposed her. Kagan watched the vote with her Justice Department colleagues in the solicitor general's conference room. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will swear her in at the court on Saturday.

Democrats hailed Kagan's legal acumen and suggested that her widely acknowledged charm might appeal to the critical swing vote of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the nine-member court. Of her career, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said: "She has brought people together of every ideological stripe."

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By Paul Kane & Robert Barnes
The Washington Post

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