Obama Makes Diversity Top Priority in Choosing Next Supreme Court Nominee

With Justice John Paul Steven just months away from retirement, the White House says President Obama is considering a more diverse pool of candidates, including whites, blacks and Hispanics -- men and women -- to tap for his replacement.

"I think he will have a broad group of people that represent many – that represent America as a way of looking at the nominee," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.

Fox News has confirmed the latest name in the mix: Judge Ann Claire Williams of the 7th Circuit, who was the first black nominated to the federal bench, by President Reagan in 1985, and then elevated to the appellate level by President Clinton.

Williams is a graduate of Wayne State University and Notre Dame Law School and used to be a music teacher.

A bipartisan group of top Senate leaders met with the president at the White House to discuss the upcoming Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process.

Though no specific names were discussed Wednesday, several key players, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have repeatedly urged the president to pick someone who is not a federal appellate court judge.

All eight justices left on the bench once Stevens steps down share that background. They are also all Ivy League graduates – predominantly white and male – and none of them are Protestant.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Diane Wood, a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, are the two names most commonly mentioned as successors. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland has also emerged as a top-tier candidate. Obama is said to have about 10 names on his short list.

Obama could also try to make history again by nominating an openly gay candidate to the high court. Former Stanford Law School professor and dean Kathleen Sullivan and Stanford Law professor Pam Karlan have been mentioned as possibilities. Both are also known for their liberal-leaning writings, legal work and commentary.

Another history-making choice would be Leah Ward Sears, the former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. If chosen, she would be the first black woman on the Supreme Court.

In an effort to build on Wednesday's bipartisan meeting, the president reached out by phone to nine additional senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including three Republicans.

Despite the president's best efforts at building some consensus. Republicans say there are critical philosophical differences that may simply make that impossible.

"I just don't believe judges should be empowered to redefine the meaning of our Constitution , of our statues, to enhance the government's power, to intervene in a lot of different areas," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The president says he hopes to announce a nominee by the end of May.