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Monday, May 10, 2010

Women To Constitute A Third of the SCOTUS Bench

For the first time in our nation's history, three women will be sitting together on the bench of the United States Supreme Court.  By the time you read this post, President Obama will have conducted his 7:15 am press conference on Monday, May 10, to officially announce that his Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, will be nominated to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

The nomination requires approval of the Senate, expected later this summer.

Ms. Kagan is used to being first when it comes to the law.  She was the first female dean of the Harvard Law School, where she graduated magna cum laude back in 1986.  During her tenure, however, Kagan sued to prohibit the U.S. Army from recruiting students from the law school to fill the Judge Advocate General Corps.

She also served as an Associate White House Counsel under President Clinton.  She was the first woman to serve in the post of Solicitor General of the United States; the federal government's litigator. In that capacity, she managed the government's SCOTUS docket.

Her judicial experience, however, is limited to a clerkship at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, followed by a clerkship with Justice Thurgood Marshall.  Most of her legal career has been spent in private practice and academia.

Kagan was a tenured law professor at the University of Chicago in the mid-1990s and undoubtedly wound-up among President Obama's professional contacts from that era.

Since she has never been a judge, Dean Kagan does not have a long list of decisions for the Senate's Judiciary Committee to pour over.  All the more reason Senate Democrats will be pushing to approve her nomination prior to the summer recess. 

In an era where women now make up a majority of all college graduates and law students, it only seems natural that they should occupy a third of the seats on our nation's high court.  Never much of a "good old boys" club, the Court has always been a vital mix of contemporary politics and long-term principles.

This Blog wonders how Kagan will be voting on the issue of same-sex marriage, likely to come up during her first year on the bench.  Until now, she has, by virtue of her brief tenure as Solicitor General, defended the constitutionality of California's referendum outlawing gay marriage in the Perry v Schwarzenneger case.

She really had no choice but to join that momentous fight on the side of upholding the California ban on gay marriage.  California's Attorney General, Jerry Brown, declined to defend the law, saying it was unconstitutional.  Governor Schwarzenneger likewise declined to wade directly into the legal fray, saying he approved of the litigation as it raised important constitutional legal issues that called for judicial resolution at the national level.

Update:  The official blog of the State Bar of Michigan has posted links to all the numerous blogs covering this nomination.

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