Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan

SUPREME COURT NOMINEE ELENA KAGAN…. In a couple of hours, President Obama will introduce Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Kagan served as the Dean of Harvard Law School from 2003 to 2009. She was widely viewed as a front-runner when Obama was considering candidates for a Supreme Court opening last year, but the president ultimately chose Sonia Sotomayor for the job.

At 50 years old, Kagan would be the youngest justice on the court, one of many factors working in her favor. She has the chance to extend Obama’s legacy for a generation. […]

A source close to the selection process told The Associated Press that a central element in Obama’s choice was Kagan’s reputation for bringing together people of competing views and earning their respect.

If confirmed, Kagan would be the first justice on the high court who hadn’t already served as a judge since 1972. She would also be the third woman on the high court — the most in American history.

Kagan’s background is as diverse as it is impressive: she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (whom she later described as the “most important lawyer” of the 20th century); worked on the Hill as a Senate aide (with then-Sen. Joe Biden); was a domestic policy aide in the Clinton White House; became the first woman to serve as the dean of Harvard Law School; and has been the Solicitor General in the Obama administration for about a year.

While Kagan’s professional background is unlikely to generate controversy, there are widespread concerns, particularly on the left, about her relatively thin paper trail and unstated political philosophy. For most Supreme Court nominees, there are years of court rulings that help paint a reasonably accurate picture of a jurist’s views. Kagan, however, has no such record, and didn’t even publish extensively during her career in academia.

As the NYT noted, “Perhaps as a result, some on both sides of the ideological aisle are suspicious of her. Liberals dislike her support for strong executive power and her outreach to conservatives while running the law school. Activists on the right have attacked her for briefly barring military recruiters from a campus facility because the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military violated the school’s anti-discrimination policy.’

For more on this aspect of the Kagan selection, there’s no shortage of pieces to consider. In particular, Glenn Greenwald has been a leading voice in raising concerns about Kagan from a progressive perspective, starting with this piece published a few weeks ago, and concluding with this round-up of related pieces over the weekend.

On the other hand, Lawrence Lessig has defended Kagan’s progressive bona fides, and Walter Dellinger has argued that on one of the more contentious areas — Kagan’s seemingly conservative views on the power of the executive — she may be more liberal than she appears.

Plenty more to come.