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Obama’s controversial court pick wins Al Sharpton’s support

Elena Kagan and President Barack Obama

American President Barack Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court has been endorsed by the civil rights leaders there,even as black women’s groups express their upset at the decision.

The NAACP unanimously endorsed Solicitor General Kagan’s nomination over the weekend, and Reverend Al Sharpton also added his support today.

“After careful deliberation, The National Action Network, along with its Board of Directors and national staff, have decided to endorse and support the nomination of Elena Kagan for the United States Supreme Court,” Sharpton said in a statement.

“President Obama’s nomination of Ms. Kagan – a New Yorker who was a clerk for the Honorable Thurgood Marshall and who has shown balance and fairness throughout her career – is worthy of the support of the civil rights community,” said Sharpton.

“Elena Kagan has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights and equal justice under the law throughout her career,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous.

The strong support by Sharpton and the NAACP could help quell dissent from black women’s groups that Kagan ‘leapfrogged’ over other suitably qualified black women, as well as questions over the diversity of her hiring practice while at Harvard University.

Kagan’s nomination came as a surprise to many black organizations, activists and academics. Several were hoping that Obama would follow up on his historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic member, and pick a black woman to the court. Such a nomination would also have been poignant in the year of civil rights activist Dorothy Height’s death earlier this month.

Federal appellate Judge Ann Claire Williams and former Georgia Supreme Court chief justice Leah Ward Sears were reportedly under consideration by Obama.

The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Black Women’s Roundtable said of the nomination: “Needless to say, we are disconcerted by the perceived lack of real consideration of any of the extremely qualified African-American women as potential nominees.”

Kagan’s hiring practices between 2003 and 2009 while she was the dean of Harvard Law School has also come under scrutiny.

During that time, 29 faculty members were hired. Of that group, 28 were white and one was Asian-American.

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