Obama's Potential Supreme Court Nominees

The timing of Supreme Court Justice David Souter's decision to retire comes as a surprise to many, including some of his colleagues on the court. At least one justice learned of it from media reports.

Still, the clues have been there. Speculation started to swirl this spring because Souter hadn't even started interviewing clerks for the next term.

Here's a look at who's hot and who's not in potential replacements:

Sonia Sotomayor: Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

Sonia Sotomayer

BIO: Age: 54. Graduate of Yale Law School. Worked as an assistant district attorney in New York and in private practice (1984-92). Appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1991 to federal district court in Southern District of New York. Nominated by President Bill Clinton for the Second Circuit.

SUPPORTERS SAY:
-- She'd be an asset as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.
-- It's a "pro" that she was first nominated to the federal bench by a Republican.
-- She has an inspiring life story, having grown up in housing projects and going on to graduate from Princeton University and Yale Law School.

CRITICS SAY:
-- She was part of a panel on the 2nd Circuit that declined to rule on the merits of a major reverse discrimination case regarding firefighters in New Haven that is currently in front of the Supreme Court. As National Journal's Stuart Taylor has written: "The three-judge panel initially deep-sixed the firefighters appeal in a cursory, unpublished order that disclosed virtually nothing about the nature of the ideologically explosive case."
-- A so-far anonymous campaign has emerged that she's had less than a cordial relationship with some colleagues on the bench and has an abrasive personality.

Elena Kagan: Solicitor General, U.S. Justice Department

Elena Kagan

BIO: Age: 49. Graduate of Harvard Law School. Law clerk for former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Former dean of Harvard Law School. Nominated by President Clinton for the D.C. Circuit, but her nomination was stalled in the Senate. Wrote a 1995 book review on Senate confirmation fights. "When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues," she wrote, "the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce." Kagan wrote that the trick is "alternating platitudinous statement and judicious silence."

SUPPORTERS SAY:
-- It's a plus that lawmakers gained familiarity with her during her recent confirmation hearings.
-- She was seen at Harvard as someone who created unity among those with ideological disputes and recruited some of the best legal minds to the university.
-- She is an intellectual heavyweight.

CRITICS SAY:
-- She has no real experience in the court room, having served mainly in academic and policy-making positions.
-- She has argued that it violates the First Amendment to withhold funds from colleges that ban the military from recruiting on campus. The Supreme Court rejected her view.
-- She's a fierce critic of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.
--She passed up the chance to argue this year's voting rights case, and she's yet to argue a case against the Supreme Court.

Diane Wood, Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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