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VIA CNN:

President Obama took a key step in cementing his judicial legacy Monday, nominating Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.

If confirmed, the 50-year-old Kagan will become the 112th Supreme Court justice. She would be the third woman on the nine-member bench and the fourth in the history of the court. Her confirmation also would mean that the Supreme Court would have no Protestant justices for the first time in its history. Kagan, who is Jewish, would join six Catholic and two Jewish justices; Stevens is Protestant.

Kagan, a native New Yorker, was widely reported to be the front-runner for the nomination. She was a finalist for the high court vacancy last year when Justice Sonia Sotomayor was selected to replace the retiring David Souter.

Kagan received her law degree from Harvard University, where she later served as dean of the law school. She previously served in the Clinton administration as associate White House counsel.

Kagan is a “trailblazing leader” who is “open to a broad array of viewpoints” and is a proven “consensus builder,” Obama said at the White House.

“While we can’t presume to replace Justice Stevens’ wisdom or experience, I have selected a nominee who I believe embodies that same excellence, independence, integrity and passion for the law, and who can ultimately provide that same kind of leadership on the court.”

Kagan, in turn, said she was “honored” and “humbled” by what she called “the honor of a lifetime.”

“The court is an extraordinary institution in the work it does and the work it can do for the American people,” she said. It enables “all Americans, regardless of their background or their beliefs, to get a fair hearing and an equal chance at justice.”

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