With the news of Associate Justice John Paul Stevens’ retirement this summer, both sides in the Senate are rearing for a confirmation fight that, I suspect, could make Robert Bork’s look like John Jay’s.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that he “hopes Senators on both sides of the aisle will make this process a thoughtful and civil discourse.” But GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) warned that “Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint” to any nominee.
The White House has said they will make an announcement ” in the coming weeks,” from a list that includes about 10 names. There will surely be some leftovers from the Sotomayor short-list. So beginning, roughly, with the center-most candidate and moving left, that list likely includes:
Merrick Garland – a former federal prosecutor and current D.C. Circuit appeals judge. A Clinton appointee, Garland is well-liked by Democrats and even some Republicans in the Senate.
Elena Kagan – The first-female Solicitor General and probably first-runner-up for the Sotomayor seat, Kagan has a record of the kind of cagey jurisprudence that is ideal for a tough confirmation battle. She is well-respected by just about everybody on both sides, but lacks the paper trail that would reveal just how far to the left she’d sit.
Diane Wood – Another Clinton appointee, considered the heaviest liberal counterweight to the conservative Chicago Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dominated by Richard A. Posner. Wood was a colleague of President Obama at the University of Chicago Law School.
Pamela Karlan – A professor at Stanford Law School, Karlan is a longshot once was described by the New York Times as a “snarky. . . Antonin Scalia for the left.” Karlan is openly gay, and an outspoken liberal.
“Would I like to be on the Supreme Court?” Ms. Karlan asked once asked during a Stanford graduation address. “You bet I would. But not enough to have trimmed my sails for half a lifetime.”
A longer list would include some Obama DOJ officials / liberal legal intellectuals like Harold Koh and Cass Sunstein. And the administration reportedly vetted a number of politicians for the Sotomayor spot that could be reconsidered here, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (“the system worked”), Sens. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D.)
My two cents: It’s Kagan or somebody nobody is even talking about.