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Elena Kagan

Photo: flickr/berkman10_220

President Obama just named U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. If Kagan is confirmed, there’ll be more women on the bench than ever before. Here are five things you need to know about Elena Kagan:

1. Kagan’s long legal career includes little trial experience and none as a judge. This might help with the confirmation process, since Kagan leaves no paper trail for critics to attack. According to a recent poll, 70 percent of Americans say judicial credentials should be a factor in Supreme Court appointments, but some, including former President Bill Clinton, disagree. The last justice to come to the court with no judicial experience was former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in 1972.

2. Before joining the Obama administration, Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, where she initiated an innovative tuition waiver for all third-year students planning to work in public service after graduation. But her most well-known action as dean might be that she restricted military recruiters on campus because the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was a violation of the school’s anti-discrimination rules. Kagan lifted the restrictions once the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a law that revokes all federal funding from universities that ban military recruiters.

3. During Kagan’s brief tenure in litigation, she served as part of the counsel that represented the recording industry and several records labels in their challenge to a music obscenity ruling that stemmed from the release of rap group 2 Live Crew’s “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” album.

4. With a net worth of $ 1 million, Kagan will be in good company on the court. Currently, six out of the nine justices are millionaires, including retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

5. Though her confirmation vote for solicitor general fell mostly along party lines, Kagan does have bipartisan appeal. She was able to garner support from seven Republican senators and the endorsements of former solicitors general Ted Olsen and Ken Starr.  Described by Utah senator Orrin Hatch as a “brilliant legal mind,” Kagan has experience working with Arizona senator John McCain on tobacco regulations while a member of the Clinton administration.