President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, calling her a consensus-builder who has championed the rights of ordinary citizens.

In choosing the 50-year-old former Harvard Law School dean for the lifetime appointment, Obama picked a moderate who court watchers said is unlikely to provoke a damaging Senate confirmation battle in a congressional election year.

But some Republicans criticized Kagan for a lack of experience. She has never been a judge and has served only one year as solicitor general, a post in which she argues cases on behalf of the U.S. government before the Supreme Court.


Obama described Kagan as a fair-minded choice skilled at finding common ground and urged swift, bipartisan approval. He chose her to replace retiring 90-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, a leading liberal voice on the highest U.S. court.

Experts said Kagan could be expected to pass fairly smoothly through the Senate confirmation process, which can be fraught with political peril. Kagan would not be expected to change the nine-member court’s basic ideological balance, which tilts conservative by a 5-to-4 majority.

If confirmed, Kagan would become the third woman on the current court, joining Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and only the fourth ever.

The Senate voted 61-31 last year to confirm her to her current post, with seven Republicans voting for her.

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