President Considers Several for Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is considering more
than six contenders for the Supreme Court, a list dominated by
women and Hispanics, including judges and leaders from own his
administration who have never donned a judicial robe.

Among those under consideration are Solicitor General Elena
Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary
Janet Napolitano and U.S. Appeals Court judges Sonia Sotomayor and
Diane Pamela Wood. California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno
is also under review by Obama.

Sources familiar with Obama's deliberations confirmed the names
to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no
candidates have been revealed by the White House. The confirmation
amounts to the first time any name has been directly tied to Obama.

One official cautioned that Obama is considering other people
who have not been publicly mentioned. And more names may be added
as the administration considers a replacement for retiring Justice
David Souter.

The disclosure came as the president met privately at the White
House with four leading senators likely to play a key role in
confirmation proceedings. Separately, top aides invited the leaders
of several liberal-leaning outside groups to a meeting.

Most of the people confirmed as under consideration have been
mentioned frequently as potential candidates. Moreno - the sole man
on the known group of top candidates - is the newest name to
emerge.

The president is widely expected to choose a woman for a Supreme
Court that has nine members but only one female justice, Ruth Bader
Ginsburg. He is also under pressure from some Latino officials to
name the nation's first Hispanic justice. Moreno and Sotomayor are
Hispanic.

Obama is likely before month's end to name a nominee to replace
Souter, who is retiring when the court term ends this summer. He is
part of the court's liberal wing, and his replacement by the new
Democratic president is not expected to change the high court's
ideological balance.

Obama met Wednesday with senators who will have huge influence
over the pace and tone of the confirmation process.

"I don't envy him the decision, but I think he's going to make
it soon," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said
after the private White House session.

Obama met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Sen.
Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on Judiciary; Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; and Leahy. Vice President Joe
Biden, a former Judiciary Committee chairman and veteran of
confirmation hearings, also attended.

The Republican senators underscored that they would not seek a
rushed confirmation process, noting that it typically takes 60 days
for confirmation once a nominee has been announced. Pressed on a
timetable, Leahy told reporters: "We'll work out a decent
schedule. Let's get the nominee first."

Obama wants his nominee confirmed before the Senate recess in
August, which means he would need to name one soon.

"I think he's still in the initial evaluation process,"
Sessions told reporters later in the day. "That's pretty clear, I
think. He's not settled on one name."

The senators who met with Obama said he did not discuss specific
names with them.

Moreno was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998 to serve
as a U.S. District Court judge and the Senate unanimously confirmed
him. In 2001, he raised a few eyebrows when he gave up his lifetime
federal judgeship to accept Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' nomination
to the state's high court.

Moreno is the only Democrat on the California Supreme Court and
is widely regarded as its most liberal voice. Last year, he signed
on to the court's 4-3 ruling that legalized gay marriage in the
state. Voters later banned gay marriage in a ballot initiative.

The other known candidates under Obama's review:

-Granholm, a former federal prosecutor and Michigan attorney
general. She has been a fierce spokeswoman for her state's
struggling auto industry and was a strong advocate for Obama during
his presidential campaign.
-Napolitano, who stepped down as Arizona's governor to join the
administration and was quickly tested as homeland security chief
when the swine flu outbreak hit.
-Wood, an appeals court judge who has worked at the State
Department, the Justice Department and in private practice. Like
Obama, she taught at the University of Chicago Law School.
-Kagan, who stepped down as dean of Harvard Law School to become the nation's first female solicitor general. Like Obama, she has
her law degree from Harvard and taught at the University of Chicago
Law School. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall
and worked in the Clinton White House.
-Sotomayor, an appeals court judge and former New York
prosecutor and private lawyer. President George H.W. Bush nominated
her as a federal judge; Clinton nominated her to the appeals court.

Even a former Bush administration official surfaced in the
nominee conversation Wednesday: James Comey, the former deputy
attorney general who bucked the Bush White House over a domestic
spying program when he was the Justice Department's No. 2 in 2004.

A senior administration official said some people within the
Obama White House are pushing Comey for consideration, although it
was unclear how seriously he was being weighed by Obama. The
official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private
deliberations.


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