Monday: Obama to Pick Kagan for Supreme Court; Setbacks in Gulf Spill

BY Jason Breslow  May 10, 2010 at 9:09 AM EDT

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, left, gets the attention of Solicitor General Elena Kagan at a 2009 forum at Georgetown University Law Center. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

President Barack Obama on Monday is expected to nominate U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, according to multiple reports.

If confirmed, Kagan, 50, would become the first non-judge to serve on the Supreme Court since 1972. Kagan’s confirmation would also bring a third female to the bench for the first time in the high court’s history.

As Solicitor General, Kagan is the government’s chief advocate before the Supreme Court. Before taking the job in 2009, she was the first female dean at Harvard Law School, as well as a former attorney in the Clinton White House. President Bill Clinton nominated Kagan for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but the Republican-led Congress never held confirmation hearings.

Kagan’s lack of experience as a judge has left her with a scant paper trail — a characteristic that is likely to worry potential supporters and critics alike.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg points out:

“So elusive are her opinions that legal thinkers — both liberal and conservative — repeatedly ask the question, ‘What does Elena really believe’”

Says the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder:

“The pro-forma criticism will come from the right; the more interesting response will be from the left — whether Kagan is progressive enough, whether she endorses a variant of the unitary executive theory held by John Yoo and Dick Cheney, whether her scholarship is up to snuff, whether her views on campaign finance mirror those she was asked to argue for as SG.”

Scotusblog’s Tom Goldstein writes that it’s tough to imagine any information coming out that might derail Kagan’s nomination:

“The only significant revelations that are reasonably possible at this point would be from the files of the Clinton Administration. But given the length of time this Administration has had to review those materials … the choice of Kagan means that the White House is convinced that smoking guns will not emerge.”

The New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen calls Kagan an “ideal Obama jurist”:

“In Kagan, Obama has a Supreme Court nominee who has the potential to carry his own constitutional vision of progressive judicial restraint far into the twenty-first century.”

Not so for Salon’s Glenn Greenwald:

“The prospect that Stevens will be replaced by Elena Kagan has led to the growing perception that Barack Obama will actually take a Supreme Court dominated by Justices Scalia (Reagan), Thomas (Bush 41), Roberts (Bush 43), Alito (Bush 43) and Kennedy (Reagan) and move it further to the Right.”

President Obama is expected to announce the nomination at 10 a.m. from the East Room. We’ll have lots more here on the site and on Monday’s program.

BP Oil Rig Worker Details Blast, Legal Aftermath

Officials from BP are scrambling to figure out their next steps after a setback in this weekend’s effort to contain the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Last week, the company lowered a 100-ton structure of steel and concrete over the main leak in an attempt to safely funnel the gushing oil to the surface. On Saturday, though, BP announced the four-story containment box had been clogged by ice-like crystals. A range of new options are now being considered, according to BP, including lowering a smaller box over the leak.

Meantime, new details have emerged about the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that led to the massive spill. In an interview airing on Monday’s PBS NewsHour by NPR’s Joseph Shapiro, one of the blast’s survivors details his frantic escape from the offshore rig. Watch an excerpt here.

EU Creates $1 Trillion Aid Package

With global markets increasingly on edge about the spreading debt crisis in Europe, finance ministers from across the continent have reached agreement on a near $1 trillion aid package to help protect the fragile global recovery and save the euro.