WASHINGTON – The NAACP gave its backing Saturday to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, expressing confidence in President Barack Obama's pick after early hesitation that she might not be a forceful defender of civil rights.
The nation's oldest and largest civil rights group voted unanimously at a board meeting in Florida to endorse Kagan, in line to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. It was an early endorsement by a major interest group for Kagan, who is solicitor general, the government's top lawyer at the Supreme Court.
The NAACP's president, Benjamin Jealous, told The Associated Press that the group initially was concerned because Kagan, who never served as a judge, had little direct evidence or a record that she would actively promote civil rights. Many were worried that she might have an overly expansive view of executive power at the expense of individual liberties, and the group also had hoped to see a black woman appointed to the high court.
The National Action Network and its board of directors also endorsed her nomination. Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the organization, said Kagan "is worthy of the support of the civil rights community." Sharpton said she has shown balance and fairness throughout her career."
Kagan, 50, has received some support from conservative groups because of her efforts to reach across ideological divides, including the recruiting of conservative professors while she was Harvard Law School dean.
Jealous said the group ultimately was swayed by Kagan's work as a solicitor general as well as her tenure as White House aide during the Clinton administration, where she sought to strengthen hate crimes legislation and civil rights enforcement. He also noted that Kagan, who clerked for Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice, was effective in boosting enrollment of black and Hispanic students when she was at Harvard.
"We don't think any Supreme Court nominee walks on water," Jealous said. "It was not an issue of whether we could live with her on one thing or another, but the question was whether we believed she would be an asset to the court."
"We looked at her record, we spoke to people who worked with her as well as the civil rights community as a whole. The discussions painted a portrait of someone committed to civil rights and civil justice," he said.
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Solicitor general: http://www.justice.gov/osg/