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Who Is Obama Vetting for the Supreme Court?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 09, 2016 | Last updated on March 28, 2019

The Supreme Court has been down a justice for almost a month now. And it may continue to be so for awhile, should Senate Republicans refuse to "advise and consent" until after November's presidential election.

But that hasn't stopped the Obama administration from moving forward with the selection process, seeking a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Here's who they're reportedly vetting.

Merrick Garland: Always the Bridesmaid?

Merrick B. Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit, is undergoing SCOTUS-related background checks by the F.B.I., according to The New York Times. And Garland's got an impressive background: a double Harvard grad (crimson for undergrad and law school) and one-time HLS professor, former clerk for Judge Friendly and Justice Brennan, government and private lawyer. When he worked for the D.O.J., Garland helped supervise the investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

He's a moderate, something appealing for Republicans, but he's also already an "also ran." Garland was a frontrunner to replace Justice Stevens in 2010, but ended up being beaten out by Elena Kagan. Perhaps he'll have better luck the second time around?

Sri Srinivasan: No Surprise Here

Sri Srinivasan has been floated as a future Supreme Court judge ever since he was nominated to the D.C. Circuit. Srinivasan checks all the right boxes: Stanford grad, SCOTUS clerk (under Justice O'Connor), government lawyer and private litigator. He'd also be the Court's first Asian justice.

Like, Garland, Srinivasan was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, making it harder for them to oppose him should he be nominated to the Court. (Or so the thinking goes.)

But Srinivasan has his detractors. Liberals aren't happy with Srinivasan's history representing anti-union clients or supporting Guantanamo policies as Solicitor General under G.W. Bush. Environmentalists are concerned about his close ties to the fossil fuel industry. But such concerns might give him a better shot at making it through the Republican-controlled Senate.

Kentaji Brown Jackson: Congressional (Family) Ties

The Supreme Court wouldn't be too far from home for Kentaji Brown Jackson, a D.C. native. Currently a federal judge for the D.C. district court, Jackson is also a double Harvard, a former clerk for Justice Breyer, and a one-time public defender. Were she to make it through the Senate, she'd be the first African American woman to sit on the Supreme Court.

She want to call on some congressional family ties to help get there. Brown is related by marriage to House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to the National Law Journal.

There's no higher calling than legal blogging and no potential nominee knows this better than Patricia Millett. Millett, before going on to sit on the D.C. Circuit, once wrote for SCOTUSblog, so she has our vote. She's got some bi-partisan cred as well, having worked in the solicitor general's office under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Jane Kelly: Can't Say No?

One of the more recent Supreme Court vettees to make the news, Jane Kelly is a judge on the Eighth Circuit and former federal public defender. Like virtually everyone else being considered for the Supreme Court, she's a Harvard Law grad. In fact, she even graduated HLS with President Obama. But, she's not entirely cookie-cutter: in addition to her legal studies, Kelly spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar researching pediatrics in New Zealand.

Kelly could be President Obama's secret weapon. When she was nominated to the Eighth Circuit in 2013, she had the strong support of Senator Charles Grassley. Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has promised to oppose any nomination, but Kelly could make that hard, given his past, vocal support for her.

Brian Sandoval, Loretta Lynch, Kamala Harris: No Thanks!

Look, candidates who aren't judges! One's not even a Democrat! One didn't even go to an Ivy League law school! And none of them want to be considered for the Supreme Court.

Nevada's (republican) governor, Brian Sandoval, California Attorney General (and Hastings Law grad) Kamala Harris, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch have all been floated as potential nominees and they've all asked for their names to be taken off the White House's list. Guess they have something bigger than the Supreme Court in mind for their future.

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