April 12th, 2010
05:41 PM ET
5 years ago

New names being added to short list for high court vacancy

A federal judge from Montana and the dean of Harvard's law school are among several names being added to the Supreme Court short list.
A federal judge from Montana and the dean of Harvard's law school are among several names being added to the Supreme Court short list.

Washington (CNN) – A federal judge from Montana and the dean of Harvard's law school are among several names being added to the short list of potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, a government source tells CNN.

Sidney Thomas, a 14-year veteran on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, is being vetted by the White House, said the source, who has been regularly consulted in the selection process.

Two women who were not previously on other published lists of potential candidates are now being seriously considered. Harvard Law school dean Martha Minow has been on the school's faculty since 1981. And Elizabeth Warren heads the Congressional Oversight Panel, which reviews government efforts to boost the shaky financial and private investment sector. Neither woman has judicial experience.

Sources close to the selection process said the new names represent an effort to expand what had been a short list of candidates, many of them left over after last year's court vacancy was filled by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Some White House officials have been urging the president to expand the list of possibles to include more non-judges and people with different backgrounds and from other regions of the country. All the current Justices except the retiring John Paul Stevens are Ivy League law school graduates.

Thomas, a white male who was born in Bozeman, Montana in 1953, is little-known and has attracted little fanfare beyond the San Francisco-based court, which is considered the most liberal among the nation's 13 appeals courts.

Among rulings he authored was a 2006 decision in Nadarajah v. Gonzalez, where Thomas concluded the government illegally detained Ahilan Nadarajah for four years while the Justice Department appealed a grant of asylum. The man is a member of the Tamil ethnic minority and asserted that he was tortured and persecuted by members of the Sinhalese majority.

Minow is the daughter of former Federal Communications Commission head Newt Minow. She clerked for former Justice Thurgood Marshall. In her mid-50s, Minow replaced as dean the woman considered near the top of potential high court nominees, Elena Kagan, now solicitor general.

Warren - along with her husband - is also a Harvard law professor. She has been a regular on the talk-show circuit, including CNN, to discuss the economy's effect on families. The Oklahoma native has also co-authored two books with her daughter.

One name mentioned by some analysts for years as a potential blockbuster choice has been all but ruled out for consideration. Supporters of Hillary Clinton have long touted her credentials, but White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Monday the president "thinks Secretary Clinton is doing an excellent job as secretary of state and wants her to remain in that position."

The White House has given no indication when Obama will name a successor to Stevens, who announced his retirement last Friday. Stevens has been on the high court nearly 35 years and leads the four-justice liberal bloc.


Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Sarah the baby seal basher

    Wheres the list of CEOs running for this job?

    April 12, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. birdy

    i absolutely love elizabeth warren. the supreme court could certainly use her no-nonsense approach to things. i don't know how her not having judicial experience would affect her ability to serve. that is one for the experts

    April 12, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. ran

    It does not matter who is picked, the fear/hate/obstructionist/purity Republicans will do all they can to demonise the person.

    If all that is needed is 50 senators and the VP to confirm, I say select someone who will balance out the court from the far right Roberts,Alito,Scalia,Thomas. Put someone in who will work for the people not the special interest.

    What we need is for one of the far right to leave or Kennedy and replace with a peoples justice and we will get the 5 to 4 in our favor for once.

    We need to make it that before and decision is handed down that you must have 7 justices on one side seeing the SCOTUS is the last word unless congress changes the legislation a ruling was based on.

    April 12, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. JonBoy

    I think Bill Clinton would make an excellent judge and would stand a good chance if it weren't for that one little instance.

    April 12, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. How about some new ideas on the High Court

    I think we need some new independent ideas on the high Court – some folks with no political leanings. For example:

    UH never mind, we do not have any of those independent thinkers in the country.

    April 12, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  6. valwayne

    Hillary Clinton would be great!!!!! Seems like a NO-Brainer to me. A former First Lady and Senator. How could you get better experience on the court? Obama's going to appoint a liberal anyway so what a great choice!!!!!! Unless of course he really still hates her!!!!

    April 12, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  7. Joseph B

    I like Elizabeth Warren. A very thoughtful individual.

    April 12, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  8. Keith in Austin

    You can bet your last dollar that Bozo's appointee will be. Liberal activist wanting to legislate from the bench rather than a true constitutionist!

    I and most other Americans are fed up with Obama's liberal/socialist agenda. We will see that it is stopped in November and 2012!

    April 12, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  9. Obama the Liar

    Absolutely NO 9th circuit accord judges--they are blinded by liberalism and overturned 95% times by the Supreme Court.

    April 12, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |