Predicting the Picks

Monday, October 6, 2008

Predicting whom a president might nominate to the Supreme Court is a hazardous venture that depends on whom he is replacing, the Senate's makeup and political concerns. But two experts on the court and nominations give it a try.

Charles J. Cooper is a Washington appellate lawyer who served in the Reagan Justice Department and has been active in advising Republican presidents on judicial nominees. He stresses that he has not discussed specific candidates with Sen. John McCain's campaign:

"There are dozens of highly qualified, widely experienced, extremely gifted lawyers who both share Senator McCain's views on the limited role of the courts and who would (or ought to) attract bipartisan support in the Senate, even assuming a solidly Democratic Senate.

"But some of the names that I hear most often as potential nominees to SCOTUS by a President McCain are (in alphabetical order)":

· Paul Clement, 42, recently resigned as solicitor general.

· Deborah Cook, 56, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

· Michael W. McConnell, 53, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

· Diane S. Sykes, 50, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

· Larry Thompson, 62, corporate lawyer and former deputy attorney general.

Thomas C. Goldstein is co-head of the litigation and Supreme Court practice of the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and a founder of He said he thinks Sen. Barack Obama will nominate a woman and probably a minority:

"Men need not apply. If Barack Obama can't improve on the Harriet Miers debacle, then he should give up on judicial nominations entirely."

Goldstein's choices, in order of likelihood, and comments:

1. Sonia Sotomayor, 54, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Would be the first Hispanic justice.

2. Diane P. Wood, 58, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The strongest intellect; the oldest.

3. Elena Kagan, 48, dean, Harvard Law School. The youngest; has the respect of conservatives for her Harvard faculty hiring.

4. Leah Ward Sears, 53, chief justice, Georgia Supreme Court. African American.

5. Jennifer M. Granholm, 49, governor of Michigan. Political experience and a former state attorney general. A Clinton supporter; stood in for McCain running mate Sarah Palin in Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s debate preparation.

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