May 21st, 2009
03:31 PM ET
11 years ago

Hispanic high court candidates given White House scrutiny

A number of potential high court nominees are being vetted by the White House to replace David Souter.

A number of potential high court nominees are being vetted by the White House to replace David Souter.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House is quietly expanding its list of Hispanic candidates for the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy, sources close to the selection process tell CNN.

Colorado-based federal District Judge Christine Arguello is among those being vetted by a small senior-level group of White House officials. She told a Colorado newspaper this week she was recently contacted by administration staff and agreed to have her personal and professional records examined in connection with the high court seat being vacated by Justice David Souter.

It was unclear how much serious consideration the 53-year-old former law professor and private attorney is being given, but administration officials say they are considering a diverse group of people for the seat, including judges, politicians and academics.

About a half dozen candidates are believed to be on the short list, sources say, and President Barack Obama this week has already met privately with at least one of them - Chicago-based federal Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood.

Arguello, a native of Buena Vista, Colorado, has been on the federal bench only since October, named by President George W. Bush in his final months in office. She had strong bipartisan support from her home state senators, Wayne Allard, a Republican, and Ken Salazar, a Democrat who is now interior secretary.

Arguello was a deputy to Salazar when he was the state's attorney general, and sources say Salazar personally pushed the White House to have her considered for the high court.

Salazar also is being considered for the Souter seat, but sources say he is not among the top names on the unofficial list.

Hispanic and other groups met privately with House officials last week to discuss the high court nomination, and were told aggressive public outreach on behalf of certain candidates would not be necessary, sources said. Several prominent leaders of the community have quietly urged the White House in recent weeks to expand its list of Hispanic judges and lawmakers.

"We have a wide array of experienced Latino and Latina attorneys, professionals, judges, who are ready to serve," said Estuardo Rodriguez, co-founder of Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary Coalition. "It is our responsibility as well to make sure that we are presenting these names to the administration for consideration across the board."

Officials quietly confirmed last week another surprise name was under serious consideration, California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, the only Democrat and only Hispanic the seven-member state bench.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is thought to be one of the top-tier candidates for the high court job. Sources say she has not yet met with the president, but is expected to do so in coming days. The 54-year-old judge is of Puerto Rican descent.

Sources say Obama has long been committed to creating a diverse pool of candidates for federal court vacancies, but also conceded the White House sees political advantages by ensuring several Hispanic candidates receive greater public exposure.

In other developments, Gov. Deval Patrick is no longer a contender for the high court seat, sources said. He has told supporters recently he remains committed to serving out his current term in Massachusetts. He is an old friend of Obama, and both attended Harvard Law School.

Some Democrats and White House aides have been quietly promoting a former Bush administration official for the high court seat. James Comey was deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005 and was an outspoken opponent of the administration's domestic wiretap and surveillance program. That won him praise from some liberal and civil liberties groups.

Comey, 48, has no judicial experience but some officials like his law-and-order credentials and his willingness to take tough stands on important issues. He is now a corporate lawyer at defense contractor Lockheed Martin, and sources concede that as a father of five young children, he may be unwilling to leave his lucrative position so soon to return to a government salary.

There has been no word on when Obama would be prepared to announce his selection, but officials say it will not be before next week.

Filed under: President Obama • Supreme Court
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. ray ray

    Oh GOOD!

    I was worried the next nominee might actually be selected simply based on their EXPERIENCE and KNOWLEDGE.

    Luckily Obama has decided only a Hispanic Female qualifies!

    (eyes rolling)

    I guess when you and your wife are the product of Affirmative Action – you feel a great need to "give back" and promote others based on race and gender.

    May 21, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    We need balance.

    I recommend a dwarf albino vegetarian liberal arts Japanese-speaking cross-eyed transexual Eskimo, 'cause everyone know s/he would NEVER be an activist judge.

    Most honest folk in the world them there....ahh...whatever I call them before.


    May 21, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. The Broker.

    High Rates. What a large bill you are going to pay... Mr Obama.

    May 21, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  4. obambi

    what happened to "the best person for the job"? Suddenly we have nothing in the Democrat party but reverse racism. By all MEANS make sure you have a minority or a woman, Obama–and an illegal if you can swing it. Maybe even an ACORN employee.

    May 21, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. The Party of NO is only "pro-life" so they can kill the "babies" 18 years later in a religious war!

    I trust President Obama to make the right choice!

    May 21, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  6. Melissa

    CNN, are you serious? You know better than this and are just trying to stir up controversy. Just because this is what you're hearing about doesn't make it true. You know that.

    May 21, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. williefloyd

    Some of you are so unbelievable! Can't you at least wait until he has named his choice before you start your snide criticisms??

    May 21, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. Nichlas Emmons

    The best person for this particular position will be of Latina decent. I support you President Obama!

    -Midwestern Caucasian Boy

    May 21, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    To the next Supreme Court Justice:

    On behalf of sane America, all I ask of you is to interpret and uphold the Constitution – the greatest document ever produced by mankind – as the framers of the document intended.

    We don't care if you're male or female, straight or gay, Hispanic, African American, vegetarian or carnivorous.

    Thank you.

    May 21, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. Carl

    May I ask a simple question?
    Is a hispanic american a hispanic or an american?

    May 21, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA


    May 21, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. Imarriedmysister in TheOleSouth

    I trust President Obama to make a wise choice.The redneck south hates anyone not white.Why do you think they called them red states.Yes and im white and live in the south,I see them everyday.

    May 21, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  13. Gary Wayne

    Why should it be either or? If you are lets say of Irish heritage, does it make sense to ask: are you Irish or American? The correct answer in both cases is: both.

    May 21, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  14. YBM

    Great, thats all we need, a beaner on the highest court in the land working to get the "illegals" to stay. Send them all back to mexico to deal with their drug problem. Build a Jurassic Park type of wall. A few electrocuted bodies hanging in the fence and the rest might get the idea to stay on their side.

    May 21, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. markens from NY

    My problem is that I don't like when those media using African American,latinoamerican, but never use european american for white people. the true american are the natives.

    May 21, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  16. LacrosseMom

    @ ray ray.......... are you a simpleton? Honestly, you, GOPers are funny!

    The Supreme Court of the United States should reflect our Nation's diversity!

    We are not all white men!

    I hope President Obama, will use a WELL QUALIFIED Latina. Or an African-American woman.

    Another woman on the Court would be ideal. Peace!

    May 21, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. Marc

    ray ray – Thomas, Alito and the spinner of them all Scalia; anyone who simply doesn't offend our inteligence and has an ounce of respect for the Constitution will be needed to counterattack any of those three attacks on the Constitution and the American people. ANYONE.

    May 21, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  18. Dee, NJ

    High Court work's is Knowegle and Experience, not there voter dance!

    May 21, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  19. Bill ~ Down on the Bayou

    DO NOT miss the boat on this one. Send your people out to find a negro-hispanic who gained citizenship not more than three years ago and is no more than 42 years old for this lifetime apointment. Make sure she is a persom endowed with empathy.

    May 21, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |