After weeks of speculation, President Obama on May 10 nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to succeed retiring Associate Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“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,” Obama said during the announcement.

During her time as a clerk to iconic jurist, former justice Thurgood Marshall, Kagan also learned to look for the “stories” behind the law, a compassionate approach that has governed the president’s high court choices so far. “That understanding of law, not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people, has animated every step of Elena’s career,” said the president.

That stance, however, may fuel Republican opposition during the confirmation process on Capitol Hill.

“The president has stated repeatedly that he wants a justice who will understand the effects of decisions on the lives of everyday Americans. But what Americans want is a justice who will stay true to the Constitution and defend the rights of all Americans,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in a statement. “…You can expect Senate Republicans to respectfully raise serious and tough questions to ensure the American people can thoroughly and thoughtfully examine Kagan’s qualifications and legal philosophy before she is confirmed to a lifetime appointment.”

Born to a public school teacher and housing rights lawyer, Kagan broke many barriers in her field, becoming the first woman to serve as dean in Harvard Law School’s 186-year old history and the first woman to serve as solicitor general – the lawyer who represents the U.S. government before the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she will become one of four women out of 111 justices to serve on the high court.