The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Barack Obama

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  | Category:  Barack Obama
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A young liberal version of Scalia is okay with me

Posted by: sgtpepper23 | May 2, 2009 2:02 PM

Judge Clarence Thomas does not in terms of his conservative views, represent the Black community, so considerations should really be given to a replacement of the late Thurgood Marshall.

President Obama please include on your list for consideration: Patrick Deval, governor (D- MA) and Leah Ward-Sears of Georgia-- first to preside over a state Supreme Court. Hispanics have leverage with both parties and much clout with Republicans, although 2/3 voted for Barack this time.

Blacks have leverage largely with the Democrats. A black women will not get a mention any other time in history.
This will, however, be a 'trilla' any way it comes down; and I am waiting for the drama to begin.

Posted by: Victoria5 | May 2, 2009 10:39 AM

The man is more prepared for the presidency than everyone I've witnessed in my adult life!

Posted by: OleLadySquawking | May 1, 2009 8:48 PM

Obama has a list of potential Supreme Court justices that will fail to procure a Republican vote in congress.

Posted by: XLiberalJack | May 1, 2009 8:37 PM

Rooster - That IS witty. However, that tail has a sting. It isn't punishment. It was a coercive technique designed to get information. Doing it just to punish is sadism.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 1, 2009 7:44 PM

If age is an appropriate consideration --- and it clearly is --- then it would not seem out of line to consider a potential nominee's health history to the extent that it seriously impacts actuarial life expectancy (early-onset Type I diabetes, for example).

Posted by: JohnAdams2 | May 1, 2009 7:43 PM

The Republican division on this particular issue, is odd.
G.W. Bush had full Congressional support, and should have place the entire number to fill up the Judicial ranks during his first term.

Posted by: dottydo | May 1, 2009 7:30 PM

Scalia, when asked if the treatment of unlawful combatant detainees constituted "cruel and unusual punishment" answered, "Who said it was punishment?"

A witty remark, which almost certainly subverts the intention of the framers.

Posted by: rooster54 | May 1, 2009 7:04 PM


Thank you. That was a very insightful comment and it made me think again.

Posted by: DMD41 | May 1, 2009 6:57 PM

Whatever I may think of Justice Scalia's views, and I know that good people can honestly differ, he's a most learned and intelligent justice.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "All I mean by truth is what I can't help thinking. But as I've grown older, I've learned that my 'can't helps' are not necessarily cosmic."

Honest thinking people can reach different decisions and hold different views because they honestly believe them. That doesn't mean they're necessarily wrong. Or right. I would hope that the next Justice on the Supreme Court has the intelligence of Justice Scalia but more moderate in his opinions.

Posted by: Dungarees | May 1, 2009 6:46 PM

Sonia Sotomayor

Posted by: hayden1 | May 1, 2009 6:29 PM

Obama's selection will be eminently qualified and unlike Alito and Scalia will have a judicial temperament. Which Hispanic man or woman who has held elected office will he chose?

Posted by: Gator-ron | May 1, 2009 5:45 PM

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