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Nominees' Secrets and Secret Nominees

As the watch continues for who President Obama will nominate to fill the soon-to-be vacated Supreme Court seat of Justice David Souter, two stories in today's news explore the secret sides of the candidate short list.

First up is Tony Mauro in The National Law Journal, who asks, "What old sin will haunt the next Supreme Court nominee?" For Samuel Alito Jr., it was his long-ago membership in a group that wanted Princeton University to remain all male. For John Roberts Jr., it was his earlier ruling upholding the arrest of a 12-year-old girl for eating a french fry in a subway station. Even Souter's nomination was met with speculation surrounding his lifelong bachelor status.

So what will be the next nominee's Achilles' heel? Mauro rifles through the closets of some of the short-listers and finds nunchakus, YouTube videos, Solomon-ic declarations, and anti-abortion racketeers. Yet even as he does so, he illustrates how this go-around will differ from earlier nominations. By the time the nominee is named, Mauro notes, "the accelerated, intense glare of bloggers and bloviators" will have picked over whatever skeletons may be in the nominee's closet.

But even as bloggers and pundits swarm over the usual suspects, we are well aware that nothing requires President Obama to choose from the list we've presented him. In fact, as NPR legal affairs reporter Nina Totenberg points out, "White House officials are gleefully telling reporters the president's list includes people who are not often mentioned in the media." So who, she asks, are the Supreme Court choices you haven't heard of?

Totenberg offers what might be called her secondary short list of potential nominees. It includes Christine Arguello, a Mexican-American appointed a U.S. district judge by President Bush last year; Ruben Castillo, a Mexican-American who has been a federal district judge for 15 years; Nora Demleitner, Hofstra Law dean; JoAnne Epps, Temple Law dean; Caitlin Halligan, former solicitor general of New York, now in private practice; Johnnie Rawlinson, 9th Circuit judge; and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, North Carolina Supreme Court justice.

But even with this secondary short list, Totenberg is hedging her bets. She offers it, she explains, "with the understanding that there are yet more names we haven't included." And so the nominee watch continues. In fact, the NLJ devotes an entire section of coverage and commentary this week to the question of who will succeed Souter. It includes Marcia Coyle's report on some of the other names that are making the secondary short list.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 18, 2009 at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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