Image: Elena Kagan
Jay Mallin / Zuma Press file

TODAY   |  May 10, 2010

Obama to tap Kagan for SCOTUS job

President Obama is expected to nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, positioning the nation’s highest court to have three female justices for the first time. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host: Let's begin with President Obama 's pick to replace Justice Stevens on the US Supreme Court . And again, NBC News has learned it will be Solicitor General Elena Kagan . NBC 's justice correspondent Pete Williams first broke the story last night . He's at the Supreme Court this morning. Pete , good morning.

PETE WILLIAMS reporting: Matt , good morning to you. President Obama does make some history with this decision . She's the fourth woman to be nominated to the US Supreme Court , and this is the first time in nearly 40 years that a president has chosen someone with no experience as a judge. Elena Kagan just turned 50 a week and a half ago, the youngest of the finalists on the president's list.

Ms. ELENA KAGAN: Thank you so much . Thank you, everybody.

WILLIAMS: She has spent nearly her entire professional life in government or teaching, becoming the first woman dean of Harvard Law School . Four of the current justices are Harvard grads; she'd be the fifth.

Ms. KAGAN: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court , I have three very quick points to make about...

WILLIAMS: Since March 2009 , she's been the nation 's first woman solicitor general , the government 's top courtroom advocate. A native of New York City , she graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law , then clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall , who she admits nicknamed her "Shorty." For most of the 1990s she taught law at the University of Chicago , where she met the young Barack Obama , then a part-time member of the faculty. She worked on the White House staff of President Clinton and helped guide Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg through her confirmation hearings while serving as an aide to Senator Joe Biden , the chairman of the Judiciary Committee . As Harvard Law dean, Elena Kagan added prominent conservatives to the faculty for diversity, showing a talent for building bridges that could help her form coalitions on the Supreme Court . But her Harvard record includes some controversy. She enforced a long-standing anti-discrimination policy there, blocking military recruiters from the law school because of the Pentagon 's ban on gays in the military . As for her personality, she's know for a quick wit and sense of humor , both on display during her confirmation hearing last year when asked if she agreed with a memo she herself wrote 20 years ago as a law clerk .

Ms. KAGAN: And I looked at it and I thought , that is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. So I looked at it and I said I...

Offscreen Voice: You don't have to go any further.

WILLIAMS: Elena Kagan was considered by the president last year when he chose Sonia Sotomayor , so now this time his second nominee is also a woman. And by the way, the last member of this court who had not been a judge before he came here was William Rehnquist , who became chief justice. Meredith :