WASHINGTON -- On Monday, President Barack Obama announced his decision to nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace retiring Supreme Court justice John Paul Stephens.
Obama introduced the former Harvard Law School dean in the White House East room as a "friend," adding that she was "widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost legal minds."
Kagan said she was "honored and humbled by this nomination," vowing she would show the same independence, integrity and passion for law as her predecessor Stevens.
"I look forward to working with the Senate and thank you, Mr. President, for this honor of a lifetime," Kagan said.
Should Kagan be confirmed, the Supreme Court will have three female justices, the largest number of women to sit on the bench during the court's history.
Click play for reaction to Obama's Supreme Court Justice pick with Regent University's Gerson Moreno-Riano. Also, Jordan Sekulow with the American Center for Law & Justice spoke with Gordon Robertson about the president's nominee. Click here to watch.
Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network also offered her insight. Watch more here.
A Rare Thing in Modern Times
Kagan's nomination is one of the rarest things in modern times -- a non-judge nominated to the highest court in the land. Much of her career has been in academia, like the years she spent as dean of Harvard Law School.
Since the president's nominee is not a judge and has few legal opinions on record, critics may have a hard time finding reasons to oppose her nomination. The president may be hoping that will translate into a relatively easy confirmation in the Senate, where she was confirmed just a year ago as his solicitor general.
Kagan is seen as somewhat of a moderate and, in replacing the liberal Stevens, might actually make the high court more moderate.
Should Republican senators go along with such thinking, it could help avoid a battle on Capitol Hill this summer while lawmakers are in engaged in bitter election contests across the country.
"It's in the administration's interest and it's in Democrats up on Capital Hill's interest to make this a much smoother process," Republican strategist Kevin Madden said.
Kagan served as a White House adviser during the Clinton administration. Then, as Harvard Law dean, she waged one of her few controversial public fights - opposing military recruiters on campus because of her distain of the military's refusal to let homosexuals serve openly in the ranks.
A Vague Record
Since she's supposedly so quiet about her opinions, few know where she stands on many judicial issues. Attorney General Eric Holder has speculated that will change during her confirmation.
"She's done a great job as solicitor general. The first woman to ever hold that job. The first woman to be the dean of the Harvard Law School," Holder told NBC's Meet the Press. "I think people …will get an understanding of who she is, what her judicial philosophy is."
If she wins confirmation, the 50-year-old solicitor general would be the youngest justice on the bench, and the fourth woman ever to serve there.
Kagan is also Jewish, meaning that when Stevens steps down this summer, it would be the first time ever that there's no Protestant on the high court.