Obama Told Staff of Court Short List in December
By Scott Wilson
A month before he was sworn into office, President Obama provided his senior staff with the names of several individuals he would consider to fill a potential Supreme Court vacancy, suggesting the administration already is far along in its planning to replace Justice David Souter.
A White House official said today that the General Counsel's office began "reviewing the backgrounds of possible nominees and evaluating their records" within days of the inauguration.
"The goal of that effort was to be ready if a Justice stepped down at the end of this court's term," the official said. The term ends next month.
The process began in November when leaders of the transition team formed a working group to focus on judicial selection, specifically to begin identifying candidates to fill a number of vacancies on the federal bench and future Supreme Court nominees.
Obama, who has taught constitutional law, informed the group what criteria he would use to make his choice, the administration official said.
In December, during meetings in Chicago and Washington, Obama suggested names of people he would seriously consider for a vacant Supreme Court post, the administration official said. The official would say only that the candidates come from "diverse backgrounds, work, and life experiences."
In preparation for a vacancy, Obama's senior staff met yesterday to begin organizing a formal selection process, although the official said the meeting was held before Souter's retirement plans were first reported by National Public Radio.
The administration has moved more quickly than some of its predecessors to fill vacancies on the federal bench. Obama has so far nominated three appellate court judges -- and did so a month earlier than the Bush administration sent its first nominees to Congress and four months before Bill Clinton did.
Posted at 4:46 PM ET on May 1, 2009
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