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THE LEADING CANDIDATES

Saturday, April 10, 2010; A08

Solicitor General Elena Kagan

Year born: 1960

Hometown: New York City

Education: Princeton University; Oxford University; J.D., Harvard Law School

Experience: Solicitor General; former associate White House counsel; former dean of Harvard Law School

Kagan is a former dean of Harvard Law School, worked in the Clinton administration and was a colleague of President Obama's at the University of Chicago Law School. He chose her to be the government's top appellate lawyer and representative at the Supreme Court, the first woman to hold the job. Republicans complained during her confirmation for that job about her lack of courtroom experience -- her first argument at the U.S. Supreme Court in September was her first in any court -- and that she refused to answer questions on specific constitutional questions and cases. Conservative legal activists denounced her decision to forbid military recruiters on the law school campus because the ban on military service by gays violated the university's anti-discrimination policies. She was confirmed on a 61 to 31 vote.

PROS AND CONS

Pro: No one has disputed her broad knowledge of the law, and she has high-profile conservative supporters because of her leadership of Harvard Law, where she brought in prominent scholars across the ideological spectrum. Some say her ability to find common ground among competing interests would serve her well on the ideologically divided court.

Con: The appointment of a second consecutive New Yorker with Ivy League credentials -- indeed, she would be the third straight nominee from Princeton -- would not add to the court's diversity the way Sotomayor did (although the court has never had three female justices at one time). And she does not have Sotomayor's compelling up-from-the-projects life story that impressed Obama last year.

Judge Merrick B. Garland

Year born: 1952

Hometown: Chicago

Education: Harvard College; J.D., Harvard Law School

Experience: U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; former U.S. attorney general; former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; former deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department

Garland has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit since 1997, after a long fight between the Clinton administration and Republican senators that had little to do with him. He is a favorite of the Washington legal establishment, widely praised by lawyers and other judges for his well-reasoned and generally moderate opinions. He has had two stints in private practice and served as assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from 1989 to 1992. From 1994 until his appointment to the bench, he worked at the Justice Department, where he supervised the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombing and UNABOM cases.

PROS AND CONS

Pro: Garland has supporters on both sides of the Senate aisle, and there is little in his opinions -- at least at this point -- that would seem to arouse strong opposition. If Obama thinks a battle over a nominee would compete with his ambitious legislative goals, Garland might be the least controversial choice.

Con: Garland would be another appellate judge on a court exclusively made up of appellate judges, another white male among the five already there, and he would make the court a complete set of Ivy League law school grads (Harvard in his case). Liberal legal activists would be disappointed by the appointment of the most moderate candidate on Obama's list.

Judge Diane Wood

Year born: 1950

Hometown: Plainfield, N.J.

Education: University of Texas at Austin; J.D., University of Texas School of Law

Experience: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit; Justice Department; former professor at the University of Chicago Law School

Wood worked at the antitrust division of the Justice Department during the Clinton administration, and she was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1995. She knows Obama from her days as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where he also taught. Among those mentioned seriously as a Supreme Court candidate, Wood is the favorite of liberal activists, praised as a brilliant judge with a fully developed judicial philosophy and constitutional view.

PROS AND CONS

Pro: Wood for years has held her own with conservative colleagues on the 7th Circuit who are considered some of the nation's brightest thinkers. A resident of Chicago and a University of Texas graduate, she would bring geographic, gender and academic diversity.

Con: Wood's opinions protecting abortion rights have drawn the scorn of the right and would ensure that abortion would be a major issue in the confirmation fight. The Obama administration saw how volatile that was in the health-care debate. She will turn 60 this summer; presidents generally prefer younger nominees, and only one member of the current court -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- was that old when she was nominated.

Secretary Janet Napolitano

Year born: 1957

Hometown: New York City

Education: Santa Clara University;

J.D., University of Virginia School of Law

Experience: Homeland Security secretary; former governor of Arizona; former Arizona attorney general

The homeland security secretary was one of three runners-up Obama interviewed for the nomination Sotomayor received (Kagan and Wood were the others). Napolitano was born in New York but raised in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, and she was educated at Santa Clara University and University of Virginia School of Law. She was Arizona's U.S. attorney before being elected attorney general and was elected twice as governor before joining the Obama administration.

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm

Year born: 1959

Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.

Education: University of California at Berkeley; J.D., Harvard Law School

Experience: Governor of Michigan; former Michigan attorney general

Granholm has encountered political trouble in her state because of the collapsing economy but has been seen as a rising Democratic star. Born in Canada, Granholm is a Harvard Law graduate who served as attorney general before winning election as governor in 2002. She frequently campaigned with Obama during his presidential run. She was prominently mentioned last year but did not interview with Obama.

Former Georgia chief justice

Leah Ward Sears

Year born: 1955

Hometown: Savannah, Ga.

Education: Cornell University;

J.D., Emory University School of Law

Experience: Former chief justice of Georgia Supreme Court; former City of Atlanta Traffic Court judge; former superior court judge

Sears was appointed by then-Gov. Zell Miller (D) in 1992 and later became the first woman elected in a contested statewide race in Georgia. In 2005, she became chief justice and, in the process, the first African American woman in the nation to head a state supreme court. She resigned last summer to return to private practice.

Judge Ruben Castillo

Year born: 1954

Hometown: Chicago

Education: Loyola University; J.D., Northwestern University School of Law

Experience: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; private practice; former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois

Castillo is a former assistant U.S. attorney for Chicago and was counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. He was nominated to the bench by Clinton in 1994.

California Supreme Court

Justice Carlos Moreno

Year born: 1948

Hometown: Los Angeles

Education: Yale University;

J.D., Stanford Law School

Experience: Associate justice of the California Supreme Court; former Los Angeles deputy city attorney; private practice; former judge, Superior Court of Los Angeles County; former judge, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Moreno gave up a federal judgeship for a spot on the California high court in 2001. He voted with the majority of the court in 2008, striking down state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. After voters approved Proposition 8, amending the state Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, he was the only vote on the court against it.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick

Year born: 1956

Hometown: Chicago

Education: Harvard College; J.D.,

Harvard Law School

Experience: Governor of Massachusetts; former assistant attorney general for the civil rights division; private practice

Patrick (D) worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and served as assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Clinton Justice Department before becoming a corporate lawyer. He was elected governor in 2006 and has had a rocky time in the job, but he is well liked in the civil rights community. The appointment of an African American would give Obama another first: Never before has the court contained two black justices.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Year born: 1960

Hometown: Plymouth, Minn.

Education: Yale University; J.D.,

University of Chicago Law School

Experience: Senator; former Minnesota attorney general

The Democrat from Minnesota is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and was a prosecutor before her election to the Senate in 2006. A major downside: her successor would be named by the state's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Year born: 1955

Hometown: New York City

Education: Yale University; J.D.,

University of Virginia School of Law

Experience: Senator; former Rhode Island assistant attorney general; former U.S. attorney for Rhode Island; former Rhode Island attorney general

The Democrat from Rhode Island is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is a graduate of Yale and the University of Virginia Law School. He was the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island and state attorney general before his election to the Senate in 2006. He has the same downside as Klobuchar: His successor would be named by Republican Gov. Donald L. Carcieri.

-- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

-- Elizabeth Warren, Harvard law professor and chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel on the U.S. banking bailout.

-- Pamela Karlan, Stanford constitutional law professor

-- Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School

-- Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser at the State Department, former dean of Yale Law School

-- Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School

-- Cass Sunstein, former Obama adviser and now administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

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