President Obama has nominated Elena Kagan, the current U.S. Solicitor General, to be the next member of the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice John Paul Stevens retires this summer. As Solicitor General, Kagan is currently responsible for arguing cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government. If confirmed by the Senate, she would sit on the other side of those cases, hearing testimony and ruling on it as part of the nine-member high court.
Kagan was born in New York City and attended Princeton, Oxford and Harvard universities before eventually becoming the first female Dean of the Harvard Law School. Kagan has never served as a judge before and would be the only member of the Supreme Court without judicial experience if confirmed. She would also join Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor as the third woman on the court, the most in its history.
To be confirmed as a member of the Supreme Court, Kagan must first win the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will vote to send her nomination to the full Senate for debate. Kagan will then face questions from the Senate about her career background and ability to rule fairly and without bias on the court. Finally, the Senate will vote on whether to approve her nomination.
General information about Kagan's nomination and the confirmation process is included in the first four minutes of this video.
"While we can't presume to replace Justice Stevens' wisdom or experience, I have selected a nominee who I believe embodies that same excellence, independence, integrity and passion for the law, and who can ultimately provide that same kind of leadership on the court: our solicitor general and my friend, Elena Kagan." - President Obama
"The court is an extraordinary institution in the work it does and it the work it can do for the American people by advancing the tenets of our Constitution, by upholding the rule of law, and by enabling all Americans, regardless of their background or their beliefs, to get a fair hearing and an equal chance at justice." - Elena Kagan, U.S. Supreme Court nominee
"You know, we have some Republicans who would automatically oppose anybody who was nominated. Come on. We're talking about a Supreme Court justice. Let's look at the qualifications, vote up, vote down. She will be confirmed." - Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
"But this is going to be a real confirmation process. And if the nominee can't meet the basic standards of a judge and convince, you know, enough senators that she's capable of doing that, then I think the nominee could have trouble." - Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
1. What is the Supreme Court? How many members does it have, and how long do members serve?
2. What does a judge do?
1. Based on what you saw in the video, do you think Kagan will be confirmed as the next member of the Supreme Court? Why or why not?
2. What aspects of Kagan's life and career do you think the Senate will focus on during the confirmation process? Why?
3. What aspects are most important to you? Why?
4. President Obama described Kagan as a "trailblazer." What does that mean, and what has she done to deserve that title?
Obama Begins to Scrutinize Potential Supreme Court Nominees:
NewsHour Supreme Court Watch:
Lesson Plan: Supreme Court Confirmation Simulation: