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Stevens Replacements: Who Will Be The Next Supreme Court Nominee? (PHOTOS)

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 06/09/10 06:12 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 05:05 PM ET

Here are the top contenders to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who announced on Friday that he will retire from the Supreme Court this summer.

The list of possible nominees is based on Huffington Post interviews with a number of prominent Supreme Court scholars and observers:

Elena Kagan
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There appears to be a growing consensus that Solicitor General Elena Kagan is the front-runner for the position. Kagan comes armed with a formidable set of credentials: Associate White House Counsel during the Clinton Administration; Professor and then Dean of Harvard Law School; and now, Solicitor General of the United States, the appointee tasked with representing the U.S. Government in cases before the Supreme Court.

At Harvard, Kagan forged a reputation for herself as a savvy consensus-builder, uniting a factious faculty divided along ideological lines.

"She has a terrific political sense," says Charles Fried, Professor at Harvard Law School and Solicitor General in the Reagan administration. "She knows how to frame issues so that people see things her way."

Her interpersonal political prowess shone through in a law school then plagued by inertia.

"The faculty had been divided politically on left-right grounds and had difficulty making [faculty] appointments," explains Harvard Professor Mark Tushnet. "But she was able to break the logjam by explaining to people that the law school was stagnating and that it could move forward only if it overcame these issues."

On a fractured Court with an ascendant right wing, her capacity for persuasive diplomacy could prove pivotal.

Equally in Kagan's favor is the absence of a potentially compromising legal paper trail. In the wake of a bruising health care debate, it's likely that President Obama will want to minimize the amount of political capital he expends on a Supreme Court nominee.

"Kagan is unique in that, like Justice John Roberts, she's universally respected but hasn't written on divisive topics that could make confirmation difficult," says University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Theodore Ruger.

Kagan, 49, also has youth on her side. Opting for a young Supreme Court nominee has traditionally allowed a President to extend his influence beyond his term in office and cement his political legacy, a trend that arguably started with President Reagan's appointment of Antonin Scalia, who was 50 at the time of his nomination to the bench.
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