April 14th, 2010
03:17 PM ET
5 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. marc

    The statue of the scales of justice would seem to be a good example of how this very important choice needs to be made. Who's best for the job- no politics at all.
    With the executive and legislative branches at odds the way that they are now we need the courts very neutral eyes and ears to protect us from them.

    April 14, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. Monrob

    Hillary Clinton would be the best choice, but Obama never makes the right choice.

    April 14, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  3. AnthonyW

    One word..Granholm!!!!!!

    April 14, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  4. dblzap

    The GOP has already rejected Obamas pick
    I pray Americans see the GOP for the jerks they really are by november

    April 14, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. NVa Native

    We need a balanced court – so we need the opposite of that barbarian psycho Scalia. Some one of this current time in our history, someone not ruled by their religion of choice, or their social ignorance, or their political arrogance, and someone who follows the Constitution.
    No one better than our President to make that CHOICE.

    April 14, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  6. aware

    So – the narcissistic, obtuse, obfuscating Obama will do what is best for Barack! :(

    April 14, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. Annie, Atlanta

    I hope he picks a moderate to liberal justice. Good grief, if the court gets any more to the right, corporations will reign supreme and we'll all be their slaves.

    April 14, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. JIm,VIRGINIA

    Probably will take that long for him to find a communist desguized as a liberal or progressive judge.

    April 14, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. BeverlyNC

    Hope the choice is as liberal as possible to counteract the ultra conservative nutjobs on the court like Scalia and Thomas.

    The Court needs balance and someone who actually knows the law. The Republican justices make decisions based on politics (like letting corporations buy elections now) and not on the rule of law.

    April 14, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. ZotQuix

    psh...everyone knows that Obama can't stick to deadlines. Remember when he said Healthcare Reform would be done in March and we still don't have Healthcare Reform!

    *cough*sarcasm*cough*

    April 14, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  11. Bubba

    First he will nominate Bill Clinton, and let the conservatives rage and foam; then when they are all tired out and frothy, nominate one of these candidates for the easy win. Or maybe they will just put Bill on the court . . .

    April 14, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  12. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Now all we have to hope is Justice Scalia foaming at the mouth over whoever President Obama nominates and he can have his third nominee before his first term is over!

    April 14, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  13. geecee

    Hillary Clinton certainly was the right choice for Secretary of State, now wasn't she? She is doing an awesome job. Why would he ask her to leave? Obama is pretty savvy about the law – after all, he taught Constitutional Law at the Univ. of Chicago for 10 years, so he'll make the right choice. It's funny how some of you dopes like to mock him as if he hasn't accomplished a single thing since he has been President. He's done more in 1 and 1/2 years that his predecessor did in 8 years before him. What exactly did Bush do during the time he and Cheney had to ruin this Country? He started two Wars. That's about it. I can't think of a single other accomplishment. Oh, yeah. Tax breaks for the wealthy, some of you might think that was a REALLY GREAT accomplishment. Oh, and "No Child Left Behind," another winner!!

    April 14, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
1 2