Interview Schedule Indicates Obama on Track to Announce Supreme Court Pick
By Michael D. Shear and Peter Slevin
President Obama has interviewed more than two of the candidates on his list to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, and is on schedule to announce his nomination before leaving on an overseas trip slated for June 3, according to sources knowledgable about the secretive process.
Obama earlier this week interviewed Judge Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago. It is unclear who else he has talked to in the one-on-one interviews he has conducted. Aides are also keenly interested in Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York, who would be the court’s first Hispanic justice.
But Obama is known to be considering others who are not on the bench, including Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, former Arizona governor.
The source said Obama did not formally interview Granholm when she visited the White House earlier this week.
The timing of the decision is not set, because Obama has not yet made his choice, the sources said. The announcement could come as soon as next week, said one source, who added that Obama's staff built extra time into the schedule so that Obama would not feel rushed in making one of the most important decisions of his young presidency.
One source said he was “99 percent sure” that the president would not be conducting interviews this weekend when he is at Camp David. Obama is scheduled to leave on Tuesday for a trip out west, and then return to Washington before embarking overseas, where he will deliver a major address to the Muslim world June 4 in Egypt.
The White House has said only that it wants to make a decision soon enough for confirmation hearings to be completed and the new justice to be in place when the court begins its new term on the first Monday in October.
Obama started with a large list of possibilities for the job when he took office, and then narrowed the list to about a dozen after Souter’s announcement May 1. White House Counsel Gregory Craig assigned two lawyers to each of those 12 to produce 30-page research papers, one source said. Obama read each and then requested the opinions of those candidates who are judges.
White House officials have gone out of their way to describe how intensely involved Obama has been in the process. One person who was with Obama recently said the president motioned to a foot-high stack of papers and said it was his Supreme Court reading. Another asked a tired-looking Obama if he had stayed up late watching the National Basketball Association playoffs, but the president said he’d been reading an appellate opinion and became so engrossed that he couldn’t put it down.
The president then met in the Oval Office with the lawyers from the counsel’s office before interviewing the candidates.
In Chicago, where Wood serves as an appellate judge and senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, FBI agents interviewed friends and colleagues for a background report that was due at the White House on Tuesday, before Obama interviewed her. It is unclear how many candidates remain on the list.
May 22, 2009; 2:35 PM ET
Categories: Supreme Court
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