No Vacancies on the Supreme Court, but a New “Tenth Justice”

The selection of Harvard Law School Dean Elana Kagan to be the next solicitor general (and the first woman nominated for a position known as the “Tenth Justice”) is not at all surprising.  While President-elect Obama is under great pressure to nominate more women for cabinet and judicial positions, in Kagan and former Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan he had two highly credentialed candidates who would have been front-runners regardless of their gender.  Two things we know about Kagan is that she is very smart – even before the Supreme Court clerkship and record of scholarship, she won a Sachs Scholarship, sometimes called a “Princeton Rhodes” – and has done a fabulous job as dean (including poaching star professors from law schools across the country).  While the White House and Attorney General will, of course, be setting the administration’s legal policy, we can expect Kagan to defend those policy positions ferociously and expertly.  Whether those efforts will coincide with a defense of the individual liberty and limited government encapsulated in the Constitution remains to be seen.