Obama to hold bipartisan meeting on Supreme Court vacancy

Chris Rizo Apr. 17, 2010, 7:32pm

Barack Obama (D)

Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-U.S. President Barack Obama next week is scheduled to meet with key leaders in the U.S. Senate to discuss the upcoming retirement of Associate Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the White House said.

To discuss possible nominees to the nation's highest court, the president on Wednesday will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the powerful panel.

The bipartisan meeting comes as the Obama administration vets possible candidates for the seat on the nine-member court. The White House has said it is hopeful the Senate will take action on the president's eventual pick so the nominee can be seated on the court before the start of its fall term in October.

For his part, McConnell, the Senate's Republican leader, has said whomever the president nominates will get a fair shake from members of his caucus, which has the power to filibuster the president's pick.

"Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint and the fundamental importance of an evenhanded reading of the law," McConnell said.

The retirement of Stevens, a reliably liberal vote on the court, will afford Obama his second Supreme Court pick since he assumed office in January 2009. His first appointee was Sonia Sotomayor, who served on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before being confirmed by the Senate in August of last year. She replaced retired Justice David Souter.

Among possible nominees being considered by Obama to succeed Stevens are 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sidney Thomas, California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears.

Also widely believed to be also under consideration are: 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Merrick Garland, U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, outgoing Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Stevens, who will turn 90 later this month, announced last week he plans to retire in the summer, after serving 34 years on the nation's highest court. He is the second oldest justice in U.S. history and fourth longest-serving.

As a jurist on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Stevens was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1975 by Republican President Gerald Ford.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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