U.S. Supreme Court

Who Will Replace Stevens? Three Likely Picks Emerge, as Others Engage in 'Bizarro' Speculation

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The prognosticators have been hard at work predicting likely replacements for Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced today that he is retiring at the end of the Supreme Court term.

SCOTUSblog opines that President Obama will choose Solicitor General Elena Kagan. The reason, the blog said in a February post, is that the president won’t want to spend his political capital on a liberal Supreme Court nominee—including the “moderately liberal” Judge Diane Wood of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But Wood is showing up on short lists along with Kagan. In stories published in late March, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times said the two women are among three leading contenders, along with Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Times said Garland is possibly “the safest choice” while SCOTUSblog said he is the most respected Democratic appointee now on the bench.

Another possibility, Homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, may have seen her chances decline because of recent media comments. In an interview after plane passengers stopped an alleged would-be underwear bomber, Napolitano said the system “worked.” But a source told the New York Times she has not been ruled out.

Other possibilities, the New York Times said, are Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

The ABA Journal collected likely Supreme Court picks as far back as November 2008. Wood and Kagan were on the list, as was Sonia Sotomayor, who later replaced Justice David H. Souter. A fourth possibility, the story said, is former Solicitor General Seth Waxman.

Meanwhile, SCOTUSblog discounted suggestions that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Obama’s regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, a former Harvard law professor, could be nominated.

“Sunstein is the left’s Alex Kozinski or Richard Posner—although stunningly brilliant, too much of a free thinker to be nominated to the Supreme Court,” SCOTUSblog said. As for Hillary Clinton, “Suggestions that the president would appoint Hillary Clinton are as crazy as previous speculation that Bill Clinton could get the nod, and rival the bizzaro-world lunacy of the suggestion that Barack Obama will nominate himself or give up a second term in exchange for a promised nomination by Hillary Clinton.”

Related coverage:

Man of Moderation: Last Justice of ‘Greatest Generation,’ Says Farewell

Practical Meaning: As the Court Shifted Right, Stevens Kept His Place

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