WASHINGTON, April 13, 2010 -- Fewer than 10 possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees -- six of them women -- are on President Obama's short list to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court, according to ABC News sources.
Stevens announced his retirement Friday, and the White House has said it plans to name a nominee by early next month.
The short list includes: Solicitor General Elena Kagan; Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit; Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court in Chicago; Democratic Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow, who was once the president's professor; and Judge Sidney Thomas of the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court in San Francisco.
There are others not on the short list whom the president might consider, including White House official Cass Sunstein, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is being pushed by some on Capitol Hill, sources said.
The White House denied reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be tapped as the next Supreme Court nominee, despite widespread speculation.
"The president thinks Secretary Clinton is doing an excellent job as secretary of state and wants her to remain in that position," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told reporters Monday.
Obama will soon begin to review the legal records and writings of potential nominees.
The president has said he will seek to replace Stevens with a nominee of similar judicial independence and legal excellence.
"It will also be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens," Obama said Friday.
Obama's Supreme Court nominee is likely to face a tough fight in Congress, as was the case with Sonia Sotomayor, who eventually became the first Hispanic to be nominated to the post.
This time, at least one of the president's top picks is a former State Supreme Court justice who would be the first African-American woman to sit on the country's high court.
Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, an expert in family law and the first African-American woman to serve as a State Supreme Court chief justice, was on Obama's short list last year. A member of the left-leaning American Constitution Society, she is also a friend of conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.
Whatever the number of potential nominees on the president's list, much of the external speculation has coalesced around four other potential candidates.
Judge Wood, who is considered a liberal intellectual counterweight to the conservatives on the court, was interviewed by Obama last year for an opening on the high court that ultimately went to Justice Sotomayor.
Kagan, the former dean of Harvard Law School who was also on the short list last year, is considered a top choice, given her role as solicitor general of the United States. Kagan argues the United States' position in the Supreme Court and would likely easily build alliances once on the Supreme Court.
Judge Garland, who sits on a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., is considered to be one of the easiest to confirm because his views are more moderate than some of the other candidates.
And Napolitano, a former governor and U.S. attorney, is eyed as someone who would bring much experience from outside the courtroom.
White House Braces for Court Nomination Fight
White House officials are bracing for another partisan fight over the president's second Supreme Court nomination. Many anticipate that short of Obama nominating an avowed conservative to the high court's bench, Senate Republicans will paint the eventual nominee as a liberal ideologue.
Confirmation of the president's nominee requires only a simply majority of the Senate and there is a chance Republicans will filibuster, although some have downplayed the idea.
"It is unlikely that there would be a filibuster, except if there is an extraordinary circumstance," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." But "I'm never going to take it off the table.
"What I object to, and I think my colleagues would object to is somebody that comes in with preconceived notions about how particular cases should be decided," Kyl said.
But Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds hearings to review qualifications of a president's nominee, say Obama will likely nominate a centrist to avoid a long, drawn-out fight.
"It's just about a certainty that the president will nominate someone in the mainstream, so the likelihood of a filibuster is tiny," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on "This Week."
The president hopes to name his candidate in time to allow for summer confirmation hearings and to seat the new justice before the fall term.