The expected nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan represents is a proud moment for the U.S. Jewish community as well as a landmark in gender equality, the National Jewish Democratic Council said Monday.
President Barack Obama was poised on Monday to nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court, choosing a moderate who may not spur a damaging political fight in a congressional election year.
In their statement Monday, the NJDC said that Kagens nomination represented "an important step forward as women continue to take their rightful place on our nations highest court, as her confirmation would bring us to the historic precedent of three women seated on the Court at the same time."
"As American Jews, we also take special pride in seeing another member of our community nominated to the highest court in the land," the NJDC added, saying that it "look forward to an expeditious and fair confirmation hearing, and a speedy and successful confirmation vote in the full Senate before the Court convenes in the fall."
Also Monday, Democratic sources familiar with the president's thinking said he had decided on the 50-year-old former Harvard Law School dean for the seat on the court. The job is a lifetime position and requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
Reformist Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, congratulated Solicitor General Kagan on her nomination and stated that after working with her in the past, he found her "passionate in her commitment to constitutional rights."
"We found in her someone passionate in her commitment to constitutional rights and wise in her strategic judgment," Rabbi Saperstein said.
"Being at the White House this morning when the President nominated her to serve as the 112th Supreme Court Justice was a pleasure and a privilege," he added.
Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued a statement congratulating Kagan on her nomination to the Supreme Court saying "she has already served this nation with distinction in a number of capacities."
The joint statement pointed out that as "the granddaughter of immigrants, she has lived the American Dream, achieving one professional success after another and serving as a role model for many in the process."
"We applaud President Obama for having selected this distinguished lawyer, the statement said, adding that "with her background in academia, private practice, and government service, if confirmed, she will undoubtedly bring an important new perspective to the work of the Court."
Experts said Kagan could be expected to pass fairly smoothly through the Senate confirmation process, which can be fraught with political peril. Kagan has been through one Senate confirmation already -- she was confirmed last year for her current position.
An announcement is planned for 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) at the White House. The White House said Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Kagan will be at the event.
If confirmed, Kagan would replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, a leading liberal voice on the court. Like Stevens, Kagan in most cases probably would join the three other liberal justices on the court, which for years has been controlled by a five-member conservative majority.
It will be Obama's second selection to the Supreme Court. Last year, he nominated Sonia Sotomayor and she was confirmed by a 68-31 Senate vote last August. Sotomayor became the first Hispanic to serve on the court.
If confirmed, Kagan would become the fourth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court and this would become the first time that three women are serving on the court at the same time. Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are among the current nine justices.
"With his second Supreme Court pick -- and, to be clear, he will almost certainly have more -- the president is on the way to having had more influence over the court than any president since Reagan, and perhaps even Roosevelt," said Rick Garnett a law professor at University of Notre Dame.
The closely divided high court decides contentious social issues such as abortion and the death penalty and high-stakes business disputes.
As solicitor general, Kagan's job is to represent the U.S. government in cases before the Supreme Court. In that role, she has had a mixed record in business cases.
She supported shareholders in a case about excessive mutual fund fees and backed investors in their securities fraud lawsuit against Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) over its withdrawn Vioxx pain drug. But she opposed foreign investors who want to sue in U.S. courts for transnational securities dealings.
VIGOROUS QUESTIONING LIKELY
Kagan could face vigorous questioning by Republicans on hot-button issues like her opposition to on-campus military recruiting at Harvard because of U.S. policy barring gays from serving openly in the armed forces.
"The Senate needs to explore carefully whether Kagan would indulge her own values and policy preferences as a justice," said Ed Whelan, a former law clerk for conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Obama interviewed at least four people for the vacancy, including federal appeals court judges Diane Wood, Merrick Garland and Sidney Thomas. Kagan was considered one of the more moderate choices on Obama's short list of potential court nominees.
As a non-judge, Kagan would break with recent tradition if she joins the high court. Although past presidents' nominees have included politicians and others with non-judicial experience, presidents in recent decades have looked to the federal bench. The last two justices who had not been judges, William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell, joined the Supreme Court in 1972.
Kagan served in the White House of President Bill Clinton, who nominated her for an appeals court seat, but she was never confirmed.
Administration officials are eager to avoid a bitter battle over the court pick before congressional elections in November, where Obama's fellow Democrats will be fighting to keep their strong majorities in Congress.
In March 2009, Kagan was confirmed as U.S. solicitor general by a divided Senate, 61-31. All the "no" votes were cast by Republicans, including Senator Arlen Specter, who has since switched parties to become a Democrat