April 14th, 2010
03:17 PM ET
4 years ago

Sources: Obama expected to make high court pick by early May

The search for a new Supreme Court justice is underway, and sources tell CNN a nominee is expected by early May.
The search for a new Supreme Court justice is underway, and sources tell CNN a nominee is expected by early May.

Washington (CNN) – The White House search for a new Supreme Court justice is progressing smoothly, say government sources close to the selection process, who expect President Obama to make a decision by early May.

The three favorites for the seat continue to receive the most attention among the small group of officials in charge of narrowing a "short list" of about ten names. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and federal appeals judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland currently have the edge over others being considered, said those sources.

–Administration sources say Elizabeth Warren - the financial industry watchdog - has been quietly taken off the short list, but is still among a larger group of candidates being considered by the White House. She is now getting much less scrutiny than some of the favorites.

Judge Sidney Thomas, a Montana native who sits on the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals was a surprise to many court watchers and has held has a fairly low profile over the years. But sources say he has several high profile champions of his candidacy. Thomas was recommended for the judgeship by Sen. Max Baucus, who has publicly and privately pushed his candidacy. While in private practice, Thomas volunteered for the senator's first campaign. Another booster is Baucus' former chief of staff Jim Messina, who now works in the White House as deputy chief of staff. And Ian Bassin, now deputy associate counsel to the president, used to clerk for Thomas four years ago. The Counsel's Office is spearheading the Court nomination.

–Another top candidate from last year's high court vacancy is again on the short list. Justice Carolos Moreno of the California Supreme Court was moved up to the list of finalists. The 61-year-old judge is the only Democrat and only Hispanic on the seven-member bench. Some legal sources believe Moreno's name may be simple political outreach to the Hispanic community, building on the successful confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009. Moreno also has the strong support of the state's two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Gov. Deval Patrick remains not interested in a high court job, telling supporters over the weekend he is focused on his re-election bid. He has previously downplayed his chances, but has supporters inside the White House. He and the president are old friends.

–Others removing their name from consideration are Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, both members of the Judiciary Committee that will hold confirmation hearings for the nominee. Klobuchar's chances were considered slim all along, since a Republican governor would name her temporary replacement in the Senate. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is also out of the running, said government sources.

Leah Ward Sears, the former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court is a legal pioneer as the first African-American woman on the court. She now is in private practice in Atlanta. Her professional resume has a number of noteworthy "firsts," combined with what one source called a "sparkling" personality, and an inspiring personal rise from humble roots . But officials privately acknowledge they are aware of some unease among liberals. A recognized expert on family law, Sears has attracted controversy for her involvement in the Institute of American Values, which supports "traditional" marriage, and whose founder opposes gay marriage. The 54-year-old Sears is overseas this week speaking on behalf of the group. She was also fined in 2007 for violating state ethics laws when accepting improper campaign contributions. She is close friends with fellow Savannah-native Justice Clarence Thomas, whom she invited to her swearing-in as state chief justice.

Justice John Paul Stevens announced last Friday his intention to retire from the court after nearly 35 years on the bench.


Filed under: Popular Posts • President Obama • Supreme Court
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Willy Brown

    Wonder which unqualified libtard he's going to pick

    April 14, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. MikeH

    America should be very grateful for Elizabeth Warren and what she's doing to save this country from the Great Republican/Bush Economic Disaster. She says she needs to stay where she is to continue to repair the damage the Republican criminals inflicted on America.

    The other choices for Supreme Court Justice that Obama has, are all excellent and posess Constitutional integrity that far exceeds what Roberts, Scalia, and all the other Republican Corporate stooges currently in the Supreme Court have demonstrated.

    April 14, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. Michael from Ventura

    The deal is what will the obstructionists do once it's done. You know that they will do their thing. I hope the rest of America is as tired of them as I am.

    April 14, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Kagan is going to get it.

    April 14, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. Bryan

    If Obama does not pick Elizabeth Warren for the Suprem Court.
    That is proof he is picking a crook.

    Warren a Harvord Law Professor is a fighter for the American Tax Payer.

    Obummer pick a Judge for WE THE PEOPLE.

    Your voted out in 2012 buddy.

    ONE TERM WONDER
    Cange you cant believe in

    April 14, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  6. Torch

    Obama ought to nominate himself. Because he's going to pick a radical, leftist scoundrel like himself. That way he can be on the dole for life, because he knows his socialist butt is going to get kicked hard in 2012.

    April 14, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. JoJo

    Elena Kagan will be his best choice. That woman is a guy. That will be a plus for the Gay movement, and obviously will get Obama out of the spot in that heated issue.

    April 14, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. normajean

    Our president will shortly announce his choice to fill the recent vacancy in the Supreme Court. He will, with his number of associates, carefully review the work of several promenant Americans who have impressed him with their active work for the betterment of our country.His choice will be announced and then "all hell" will break loose when the Repubs say"NO".This large gaggle of little boys will start to yell,moan,groan,lie and just generally make fools of themselves which they do at any chance they get. Heaven help us if they ever agreed with the President.. In time the new justice will be seated and life will go back to normal as the repubs wait for the next time to act like jerks.

    April 14, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Well, you can't get much more liberal than Stevens to guess Nobama can't hurt us too much.

    April 14, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. moe

    Sears could work very well for Obama. She is African -American, a pioneer, woman and close friend of Thomas.
    What more could any one want?

    April 14, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I don't see Sarah or Todd Palin's name on that list. I thought being a full time beauty queen, a Governor quitter, a high school dropout, a fisherman, a hunter, a sleigh dog rider were the only qualifications required. Because Palin clearly doesn't think being a lawyer, teaching Constitutional Law at a University, a community organizer, a Senator and now a President don't meet the qualifications.

    April 14, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. Sarah the baby seal basher

    Iran has a supreme court filled with rightwingnuts,why cant we?

    April 14, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. Terry From West Texas

    It is unlikely that Obama will nominate Bill Clinton, but I think he is the ideal nominee. Who has had a greater wealth of experience than he has? Who wants more than anyone to do a good job, so as to redeem himself from the Lewinski business? Who cares more about the middle class? Who understands racial issues better? Who understand campaign finances better? Who better to take on the five Republican Party hacks that are a majority of the court now?

    Bill Clinton is the singular man for this job.

    April 14, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  14. Rob Johnson

    Another woman would be good, but the main thing Obama needs to keep in mind is the current political climate.

    If he tries to nominate a super-liberal, I just don't think he could get them through the Senate, no matter how hard he tries. He will need at least 8 GOP votes to confirm this nominee.

    If I were Obama, I'd have 8 specific Republicans committed to a specific nominee before I announced anything. After the long health care battle, he can't afford another long drawn-out political fight.

    April 14, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  15. Pat F

    I knew Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan, would never make the cut. Who wants a Canadian on the Supreme Court?

    April 14, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. jm for sc

    The media can not wait until a name fall from Obama's mind so they can create a political warfare. No matter who he selects, as long as the law of the land is the same, so will the conditions of the land remain the same.

    God Bless America with some common sense if nothing else.

    April 14, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. Regina Davis

    Lisa Godbey Wood of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia, is as bright as anyone on the list. She has a compassion for the law similar to Benjamin Cardoza's and Thurgood Marshall's. She's young and could be on court a long, long time.

    April 14, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  18. David Blackburn

    The three nominees on the short list are good choices but Elizabeth Warren, the Financial Watchdog for the U.S. Government is sharp, intelligent, and cares about the state of the U.S. She would be an ideal candidate.

    She would be a fine choice for U.S. Supreme Court Justice and deserves to be on the short list.

    Leah Ward Sears should not be considered as we don't need another Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. Her views are too controversial for the U.S. Supreme Court.

    April 14, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  19. judi

    At this point does it really matter who the President picks. It is going to be a battle. The two parties can not act like the statesmen who preceded them in office a hundred years ago. I am losing all respect for both parites and truly wishing for good will.

    April 14, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  20. sensible Cape Coral FL

    President Obama could name Jesus Christ Himself and the Republicans would object claiming that Christ was too liberal or radical – and they would be right.

    April 14, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  21. bennie new york

    I'm thinking that it'll be Kagan. It's hard to believe the former dean of Harvard Law whose been known to build coalitions would be voted down by the Senate. Personally, though, I think Obama should pick some with experience in the Appeals Court, but ultimately you have to go with the person with the best chance of getting confirmed, and Kagan's it.

    April 14, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  22. redweather

    Sears isn't nearly as conservative as her association with the Institute of American Values might lead some to believe. Although the Institute opposes gay marriage, Sears has never expressed that opinion. She hasn't come out in favor of gay marriage, either. However, I think she would be in a little over her head on the Supreme Court of the United States.

    April 14, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  23. Veronica

    A third woman on the Supreme Court would be progress. Supreme Court Justice Hillary Rodham Clinton sounds great!

    April 14, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  24. Fenarkleman

    C'mon. Judge Judy! Get her on there. It's about time! Hey, Scalia, deal with that! How'd ya like to have Judge Judy in your face every day, huh, pal? Yeah, thanks loads for that 2000 Gore v. Bush decision. Oh, thanks loads! Get over this, you amateur!

    April 14, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. Publius13

    Some educational diversity would be appropriate. We have enough graduates of Harvard and Yale on the SCOTUS.

    April 14, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
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