A source close to the selection process said a central element in Obama's choice was Kagan's reputation for bringing together people of competing views and earning their respect.
The seven Republicans who supported her when she was confirmed as solicitor general in 2009 included Hatch, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Kagan has clerked for Thurgood Marshall, worked for Bill Clinton and earned a stellar reputation as a student, teacher and manager of the elite academic world. Yet she would be the first justice without judicial experience in almost 40 years. The last two were William H. Rehnquist and Lewis F. Powell Jr., both of whom joined the court in 1972.
Supreme Court justices wield enormous power over the daily life of Americans. Any one of them can cast the deciding vote on matters of life and death, individual freedoms and government power. Presidents serve four-year terms; justices have tenure for life.
Democrats went 15 years without a Supreme Court appointment until Obama chose federal appellate judge Sonia Sotomayor last year to succeed retiring Justice David Souter. Just 16 months in office, Obama has a second opportunity with Kagan.
Kagan, who is unmarried, was born in New York City. She holds a bachelor's degree from Princeton, a master's degree from Oxford and a law degree from Harvard.
Before she served as a clerk for Justice Marshall, she clerked for federal Appeals Court Judge Abner Mikva, who later became an important political mentor to Obama in Chicago.
Kagan and Obama both taught at the University of Chicago Law School in the early 1990s.
In her current job, Kagan represents the U.S. government and defends acts of Congress before the Supreme Court and decides when to appeal lower court rulings.
BIRTHDATE-LOCATION -- April 28, 1960-New York City.
EXPERIENCE -- U.S. solicitor general, 2009-present; dean, Harvard Law School, 2003-09; professor of law, Harvard Law School, 2001; visiting professor, Harvard Law School, 1999-2001; deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton for domestic policy and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, 1997-99; associate counsel to President Bill Clinton, 1995-96; professor, University of Chicago Law School, 1991-95; worked in private practice, Washington, 1989-91; law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1987-88; clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 1986-87.
EDUCATION -- Princeton University, bachelor's, 1981; Worcester College at Oxford, master's, 1983; Harvard Law School, law degree, 1986.
QUOTE -- "I like to think that one of the good things about me is that I know what I don't know and that I figure out how to learn it when I need to learn it."