Obama Narrows List of Supreme Court Candidates

Published May 05, 2010

| FoxNews.com

And then there were four. 

President Obama appears to have whittled down his list of Supreme Court candidates to a handful of potential nominees, with a decision possible any day despite the reluctance of the White House to give a timetable. 

Obama and Vice President Biden have conducted separate interviews with four Supreme Court candidates, Fox News has learned. Sources confirmed that Obama and Biden have interviewed Solicitor General Elena Kagan, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sidney Thomas and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood

A senior administration official said Obama is "relatively close" to making his decision and suggested the president would move on to follow-up interviews with finalists, rather than first-time interviews with new candidates. 

Obama made the rounds on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, meeting with Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, both influential members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Afterward, Hatch urged the president to pick a consensus candidate. 

"It shouldn't be someone who substitutes their own personal views for the law of the land, and who refuses to follow the Constitution of the United States. A judicial activist would be a poor and unnecessarily divisive choice at any time," Hatch said in a written statement, without mentioning specific candidates. 

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, asked about the meetings, said Obama would make a decision "in due course." 

"The president is in the midst of reviewing a number of very impressive candidates," Gibbs said. "The president is in the process of making a decision." 

Obama originally had a list of about 10 potential candidates to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, who is retiring at the end of this term. 

Among them was Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. But Napolitano has been waist-deep in handling both the attempted bombing in Times Square and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, raising questions about whether Obama can afford to have a vacancy at the top of Homeland Security. 

Gibbs waved off that suggestion at the press briefing Tuesday, saying only that Obama "is enormously grateful for the work that she has done." 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has vigorously crushed some fleeting Beltway chatter that she could be eyed for the job. She said over the weekend she has no interest in the position. 

Meanwhile, Obama has kept up a steady pace of interviews with the presumed finalists. 

He held his first known interview Thursday with Thomas, who as a resident of Montana would diversify the geographic -- and educational -- make-up of the Supreme Court. Most of the justices are Northeastern graduates of Ivy League universities, but Thomas lives in Billings, Mont., and earned his law degree from the University of Montana. 

Obama next interviewed Kagan on Friday, according to a source. He interviewed Garland at some point last week, as well. 

The latest known interview came Tuesday, when both Obama and Biden held one-on-one talks with Wood. 

Kagan, who has long been in the mix of candidates, is not considered highly controversial. She has an academic background; as the dean of Harvard Law School, she was well-regarded for her performance and for reaching out to conservatives. She has a thin paper trail on past positions, but that's because she has never been a judge. 

Wood may be the most controversial of the nominees. She is a former law faculty member with the University of Chicago who taught there alongside Obama. Some conservatives are gearing up for a fight should the president nominate her, citing decisions they say reveal her support for abortion rights. Among the rulings, they cite her 2001 opinion in the case of the National Organization for Women v. Scheidler that upheld an order banning anti-abortion groups from using force to blockade clinics. The Supreme Court reversed the ruling. 

"A Wood nomination would return the abortion wars to the Supreme Court because of her abortion advocacy," Americans United for Life said in a written statement. 

Wood also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

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