The last time President Obama choose a nominee for the Supreme Court, his staff read the opinions and legal writings of more than 40 people. Nine candidates were contacted by the staff for further vetting. The president met with four candidates–Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Janet Napolitano and Diane Wood. He chose Sotomayor.
This time the White House is again not tipping its hand. There are no officials short lists or long lists. But there does seem to be some consensus among outside groups who track this process. Most leave Kagan, Wood, and Napolitano on the President’s short list, and add one man to the mix, D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland.
The names on the long list begin to vary, but there is a lot of overlap. Here is the unofficial list of other names from one outside group that is keeping a close eye on the President’s team as they work to reach a decision:
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein; Ninth Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas; Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow; Stanford Law School Professor Pamela Karlan; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh; TARP Overseer Elizabeth Warren; Stanford Law School Professor Kathleen Sullivan; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; Attorney Gen. Eric Holder; and Former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears.
There is a reason for the high number of non-judicial, judicial nominees on this list. Obama has long spoken of an awareness of the world outside of the law as a key factor in his decision making process. In his statement today in the Rose Garden about Stevens retirement, he alluded to this again:
And while we cannot replace Justice Stevens’ experience or wisdom, I will seek someone in the coming weeks with similar qualities — an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law, and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people. It will also be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.