U.S. SC blogger: Harris could be Obama's next Court pick

Jessica M. Karmasek Feb. 16, 2012, 12:11pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The publisher of a website devoted to U.S. Supreme Court news says he thinks California Attorney General Kamala Harris could be President Barack Obama's next Supreme Court pick.

That is, given Obama is elected to a second term in November, SCOTUSblog's Tom Goldstein wrote Tuesday.

"In the modern era, incumbent Presidents tend to be re-elected. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan were, though George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were not. The economy is also ticking up. So my first post will work from the assumption that President Obama will get a second term," he wrote.

Goldstein said the "odds are good" that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire in the third year of a second Obama term. She would be 82 then, he said.

He said it is "less likely" that Justice Stephen Breyer would retire. He is five years younger than Ginsburg.

Goldstein said he is "certain" that Ginsburg's replacement would be a woman.

"It is inconceivable that a Democratic administration with any reasonable choice would cause the gender balance of the Supreme Court to revert to seven men and two women. Relatedly, appointing three women in a row to the Court is excellent politics," he wrote.

Obama's pick also most likely would be "ethnically or racially diverse," he said.

"It would be disappointing for the nation's first African-American President to make two white appointments, leaving the Court with seven white members. A more diverse Court is a better legacy," Goldstein wrote.

"Given that the President already appointed the first Latina Justice, most likely is an African-American or Asian-American nominee."

He said Obama's nominee would also need to be:

- Between the ages of 45 and 55 at the time of confirmation in 2015;

- A Democrat;

- A lawyer; and

- Have "sufficient credentials," including a federal appellate judgeship, federal or statewide electoral office or senior federal executive position.

So who meets all of those requirements?

Goldstein pointed to Harris, who was elected to succeed current California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2010.

He said she is the only one who "truly stands out as checking every box."

She was twice elected as the district attorney for San Francisco; she was the chief of a unit heading civil code matters in the San Francisco City Attorney's Office; the head of a career-criminal unit in the city's district attorney's office; and deputy district attorney for Alameda County.

On top of that, her mother is from India. Her father is Jamaican-American.

She graduated from Howard University and later University of California's Hastings College of Law.

But Goldstein said the only way Harris would take a seat on the Court is if she is not reelected in 2014.

"In the end, a Supreme Court appointment is an enormous temptation for any person. The historic prospect of serving as the first African-American woman on the Court is extraordinary. But people do turn down the offer. And I have the feeling that the timing and electoral ambition will combine to cause Harris to pass," he wrote.

Goldstein said other possible nominees could include former Michigan Attorney General and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, federal appeals court nominee Caitlin Halligan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Judge Mary Murguia or California district court judge Jacqueline Nguyen.

Harris has supported the federal health care reform package signed into law by Obama, who had supported her election campaign.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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