SCOTUS blog has a detailed look at the retirement of Supreme Court Associate Justice David Souter, his legacy, a timeline for a possible replacement and a list of possible nominees from the Obama administration.
Given my premise that qualifications are extremely important – i.e., that the President will want to pick someone who stacks up evenly with the Chief Justice and Justice Alito – a truly shocking surprise is very unlikely. The number of people who have the horsepower and reputation to truly deserve a Supreme Court appointment is pretty small. My most recent post on this speculation is here, and I don’t have much to add to it. (The President and I don’t talk as often as we should.) I said then that “[t]he three obvious candidates are Elena Kagan (SG), Sonia Sotomayor (CA2), and Diane Wood (CA7). The sleeper candidate is Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.” Governor Granholm subsequently said she was not interested, but you never know. Through all his Chicago ties, including to the University of Chicago Law School, the President will be very familiar with Judge Wood’s reputation for brilliance. The President also knows Elena Kagan (who has her own Chicago ties) and the Administration will be very conscious of the fact that General Kagan is ten years younger and has the reputation from Harvard of working very well and persuasively among an ideologically diverse group.
In adding speculation from the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the LA Times, the AP, the Wall St. Journal and Salon.com, here are the top 15 candidates who might be nominated to replace Souter (in order of likelihood):
- Sonia Sotomayor (Second Circuit)
- Diane Pamela Wood (Seventh Circuit)
- Elena Kagan (Solicitor General)
- Hillary Clinton (Sec. of State)
- Kim McLane Wardlaw (Ninth Circuit)
- Leah Ward Sears (Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court)
- Jennifer Granholm (Gov. of MI)
- Janet Napolitano (Sec. of Homeland Security)
- Pamela Karlan (Stanford Law School)
- Kathleen Sullivan (former Dean, Stanford Law School)
- Teresa Wynn Roseborough (former DoJ)
- Merrick Garland (DC Circuit)
- Ruben Castillo (District Court Judge, Chicago)
- Caroline Kennedy
- Carlos Moreno, CA Supreme Court Justice
Unquestionably, the vetting and announcement of a possible SCOTUS justice is both a huge challenge and an incredible opportunity for a President in his first year.