Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court has complicated the government's effort to force the tobacco industry to cough up nearly $300 billion.
Kagan would have to sit out court's review of the government's lawsuit against cigarette makers. That's because she already has taken sides as solicitor general, signing the Obama administration's Supreme Court brief in the case.
Kagan is expected to step aside from 11 of the 24 cases the court has so far agreed to hear beginning in October.
Without her, the government and anti-tobacco advocates could find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a fifth vote to allow the government to seek $280 billion of past tobacco profits and $14 billion for a national campaign to curb smoking.