Obama to make Supreme Court decision soon, aides say

By Michael D. Shear and Robert Barnes
Thursday, May 6, 2010

President Obama has sandwiched final interviews for a new Supreme Court justice in between meetings on the emergencies in New York and the Gulf of Mexico, and is poised to announce his decision any day.

Even as Washington's attention Tuesday was riveted on the capture of a Pakistani American suspect in the failed bombing in Times Square, Obama quietly interviewed Judge Diane Wood, the fourth candidate he has met with as he prepares to nominate a replacement for the outgoing justice, John Paul Stevens.

Wood, who slipped in and out of the White House without drawing attention to herself, also met with Vice President Biden. She is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and was a finalist for the high court last summer, when Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor.

In the few past weeks, the president has also met with Solicitor General Elena Kagan; Merrick Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; and Sidney Thomas, a federal appeals court judge based in Montana.

On Wednesday, Obama met in the Oval Office with two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Orrin G. Hatch (Utah).

Presidential aides have remained coy about the timing of Obama's announcement. Press secretary Robert Gibbs almost giggled Tuesday as he noted that the president will name his choice on a day that ends in "y."

"I will just simply say that when the president informs us that he's made that decision, we will notify you as to when that announcement will be," Gibbs said. "I'm not going to every day rule in or rule out when that might be."

Other aides have been equally opaque about the timing but have provided general guidance that reporters should be ready for an announcement soon.

Next week appears to be likelier than this week. The White House is sure to want Biden -- who was a longtime member of the Senate and the Judiciary Committee -- to be around as the drama unfolds, and the vice president left Wednesday for Spain and Belgium. He is scheduled to return early next week.

Either way, the announcement will begin a six- or seven-week process, culminating in a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late June, shortly before the Fourth of July congressional recess.

While the other candidates to meet with Obama have retreated to their quiet world of the judiciary, Kagan -- the only non-judge on the "short list" of interviewees -- has been more in the public eye than usual. At this time of year, some of the circuit appeals courts hold their annual conferences, and Kagan has made scheduled appearances in Pennsylvania and Chicago. On Wednesday, she was in Columbus, Ohio.

Judge Alice M. Batchelder, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, reminded the crowd of lawyers and judges that Kagan was on the short list. She noted the sensitivity of Kagan's public appearances while introducing the solicitor general before she moderated a discussion of the Supreme Court.

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