Washington: President Barack Obama has chosen US Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the next US Supreme Court justice, NBC TV reported.
If confirmed by the White House and later by the US Senate, Kagan will replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
Stevens, 90, announced his decision to retire in April.
Kagan's appointment would mark the culmination of a meteoric rise for the former Harvard law professor, who is a close ally of Obama and was only sworn in March 2009 as the first female solicitor general.
At the time, Attorney General Eric Holder praised Kagan's "intelligence, experience and commitment to the rule of law”.
In some ways, Kagan's is a surprise appointment, as Kagan has spent much of her time in academia teaching the law, rather than arguing cases on the courtroom floor.
Her lack of courtroom experience has been somewhat mitigated over the past 14 months in her role defending the government's position on cases before the Supreme Court.
Kagan would be only the fourth woman after Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor to sit on the nation's top court.
Some legal lobby groups had called on Obama to chose someone from outside the judiciary, who might be more in touch than the aspirations of ordinary people, than a candidate who spent years in the legal profession.
A president can put a stamp on American life for years after leaving office with the lifetime appointment of a Supreme Court justice.
Stevens, 90, joined the bench amid the traumatic fallout of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, and will step down after 34 years, with bitter partisanship once again tearing at the fabric of American politics.
Yet his departure announced last month, is unlikely to change the current court's conservative leaning.
First Published: Monday, May 10, 2010, 11:46