May 1st, 2009
01:54 PM ET
6 years ago

List of possible replacements for Justice David Souter

Members of the Supreme Court, including Justice Souter, arrive for President Obama's inauguration.  Who might Obama pick to replace Souter who is reportedly retiring from the Court?
Members of the Supreme Court, including Justice Souter, arrive for President Obama's inauguration. Who might Obama pick to replace Souter who is reportedly retiring from the Court?

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Judge Diane Wood, Judge Jose Cabranes - the list of possible nominees to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter is growing by the hour.

CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears called on his extensive sources from the Court, legal community and political world to help compile a list of potential names that President Obama might be considering.

Listen: CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears runs down the possible picks

* Judge Sonia Sotomayor, 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1954. Has been on the appeals bench since 1998, named a district court judge by Bush in 1992, so would have some bipartisan support. Moderate-liberal views and Hispanic heritage considered big pluses. She is near the top of many people's list.

* Elena Kagan, Solicitor General
Born 1960. Served in Clinton White House in various legal and domestic policy positions from 1995-99. Former clerk for Justice Marshall. Has no judicial experience, and may be considered too young for the Court. Nominated for an appeals court seat in 1999, but Republicans held it up without holding hearings. A former dean of Harvard Law, where she named several conservatives to the faculty, earning her favorable respect.

* Judge Diane Wood, 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1950. She has sat on the bench since 1995. Considered moderate-liberal, well-regarded by many. Former clerk for Justice Blackmun, and served in both President Reagan and President Clinton Justice Departments. Possible consensus pick.

* Gov. Deval Patrick, Massachusetts
Born 1956. Elected governor in 2006. Boston native who went to Harvard, and later worked for the NAACP. Former assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights under President Clinton. Legal sources say he might not want the job or even be considered until his term ends in early 2111.

* Judge Merrick Garland, DC Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1952. Possible compromise choice. Considered a moderate. Served as former associate deputy attorney general and headed a probe of Oklahoma City bombing. His age is considered a political plus. Being a white male could hurt his chances if the president seeks diversity.

* Judge Ann Claire Williams, 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1949. Another possible consensus pick. Nominated, at the age of 35, to the U.S. District Court in 1985 by President Reagan, and then elevated to her current job by President Clinton. She is a labeled by many as a moderate who would be the first African-American woman on the Supreme Court. A former inner-city teacher in Detroit, she became the third African-American woman appeals court judge.

* Judge Marjorie Rendell, 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1947. Wife of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Named by Clinton to district court seat in 1993, and then elevated to the appeals court in 1997. She has been an advocate for more women in the legal profession. Her husband's strong support for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid may hurt the judge's high court chances on purely political grounds.

* Judge Jose Cabranes, 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1940. A moderate liked by both Republicans and Democrats. He was considered for the Court by both President H.W. Bush and President Clinton. Being a Hispanic might elevate his stock if President Obama is looking to add diversity to the court. Vocal critic of federal sentencing guidelines.

* Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Michigan
Born 1959. Popular gubernatorial leader and former state attorney general. Born in Vancouver, Canada, which could raise some political (but not constitutional) concerns. She also attended Harvard Law School.

* Judge Adalberto Jose Jordan, U.S. Southern District of Florida, Miami
Born 1961 in Havana, Cuba. Named to the post in 1999. Legal sources say Obama may first elevate him to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to give him more experience as an appellate judge.

* Harold Hongju Koh, State Dept. Legal Adviser (nominee)
Born 1954. Korean-American heritage may be a plus for President Obama seeking to put first Asian-American on the bench. A Yale law school professor and dean, pending his new government appointment. Worked as a human rights lawyer in Clinton State Department. Former clerk for Justice Blackmun.

* Judge M. Margaret McKeown, 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1951. Has been on the bench since 1998. The idea of a judge from the liberal Ninth Circuit might not sit well with Senate Republicans. But her western roots (a Wyoming native), somewhat moderate views, and age all considered political pluses. Also served as White House fellow during President Reagan.

* Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1943. Dissented in July 2003 appeal involving accused terrorist and enemy combatant Yaser Hamdi appeal. She wrote, "Courts have no higher duty than protection of the individual freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. This is especially true in time of war, when our carefully crafted system of checks and balances must accommodate the vital needs of national security while guarding the liberties the Constitution promises all citizens." Hamdi later won his Supreme Court appeal. Age might be a factor.

* Judge Johnnie Rawlinson, 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1952. African-American jurist has spent her entire legal career in Nevada. She is a well-liked, well-respected member of the largest federal appeals court, to which she was named in 2000.

* Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary
Born 1955. Former U.S. senator from Colorado. The state's attorney general for six years before his 2004 election to the Senate. He would receive favorable treatment from his onetime Senate colleagues, and his Hispanic heritage would boost his nomination.

* Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, Georgia Supreme Court
Born 1955. Leaving the bench June 30, 2009. On the high court since 1992. This jurist, who is African-American, has many noteworthy "firsts" on her resume. A recognized expert on family law. She is the daughter of U.S. Army colonel. Fun fact: Like Clarence Thomas, Sears grew up in the Savannah area (but was born on an Army base in Germany).

* Kathleen Sullivan, Stanford Law School professor (and former dean)
Born 1955. Her work on behalf of abortion rights, privacy issues may be criticized by conservatives. Also partner at a New York-based law firm. She was considered for the Solicitor General post that went to Kagan, but both women have very similar credentials.

* Cass Sunstein, Obama White House official, fmr. Obama campaign adviser
Born 1954. Will head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for President Obama. An old friend and colleague of the president, who was a principal adviser during the campaign. Considered a liberal, but supported the John Roberts nomination for chief justice. A prolific writer, criticized by conservatives for his 2005 book "Radicals in Robes: Why Extreme Right-Wing Courts Are Wrong for America." Fun fact: married in 2008 to Samantha Power, native of Ireland, and Harvard professor, whom he met when both were Obama campaign advisers. He left his 27-year job at University of Chicago (where he taught with Obama) to be near her in Boston. Also showed up in 1998 on CNN's "Burden of Proof" with his beloved dog.

* Judge David Tatel, DC Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1942. Blind due to degenerative eye disease when he was young man, but has never made much of it. If nominated and confirmed, he would become the first openly disabled justice. A former civil rights attorney. Age considered a real political factor, but a well-regarded intellectual, with strong progressive credentials.

* Judge Kim Wardlaw, 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born 1954. Her Hispanic-Anglo background and telegenic popularity on the bench have helped raise her profile. Has close ties to the Clintons, which could be seen as hurting her chances on purely political grounds. She sided with homeless people who were arrested at night by Los Angeles police. Fun fact: Her chambers are filled with turtle figures, a reminder to slow down in life and law.

* Seth Waxman, former Solicitor General under President Clinton; DC private attorney
Born 1952. All current and former solicitors general are on most short lists.


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