[QODLink]
Americas
Kagan approved for US supreme court
Senate confirms Elena Kagan as Obama's second appointment to the court.
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2010 06:05 GMT
Senator Patrick Leahy (L) and other Democrats were almost alone in their support for Kagan [AFP]

The US senate has approved former law school dean Elena Kagan as the newest supreme court justice, making her just  the fourth female justice in the court's 221-year history.

Kagan, 50, had served for just over a year as Barack Obama, the US president's, solicitor-general, arguing cases before the court, when he nominated her in May.

The 63 to 37 Senate vote on Thursday fell mostly along party lines, with five Republicans and two independents joining 56 Democrats in supporting Kagan.

One Democrat, Ben Nelson of the state of Nebraska, voted against approving her. 

Shaping the court

Kagan, the former dean of Harvard Law School, will join two other women on the nine-member court, including Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic supreme court justice, who was nominated by Obama and confirmed by the senate last year.

"When Elena takes her seat on that bench, for the first time in our history there will be three women"

Barack Obama,
US president

"When Elena takes her seat on that bench, for the first time in our history there will be three women," Obama said in a statement.

"Today's vote wasn't just an affirmation of Elena's intellect and accomplishment, it was also an affirmation of her character and her temperament, her open-mindedness and even-handedness".

Kagan replaces former Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in June after turning 90 in April.

Her appointment means the nine-member courtnow features four justices appointed by Democratic presidents and five by Republicans, although history has shown that justices often do not vote according to the politics of the president who chose them.

Kagan is also the first nominee in four decades to reach the supreme court without ever having served as a judge.

Partisan debate

The debate over Kagan's nomination in the senate was coloured by the approaching November elections, which will decide one-third of seats in the senate and all of the House of Representatives.

Republicans painted Kagan as an enemy of gun rights and of curbs on abortion, and denounced her for setting limits on military recruitment at Harvard because of her disapproval of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving openly.

Kagan's service in the administration of Bill Clinton, the former US president, also created concern amongst Republicans.

"Americans expect politics to end at the courtroom door," Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the senate, said.

"Nothing in Elena Kagan's record suggests that her politics will stop there."

There has been some speculation that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a 77-year-old cancer survivor whose husband died in June, would retire soon, giving Obama the chance to make the third supreme court appointment of his presidency.

But Ginsburg told the Associated Press this weekthat she hopes to stay on for at least another five years.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.