SCOTUS Potential

President Obama is set to announce Elena Kagan as his next Supreme Court nominee. I’m liveblogging the press conference. Check it out below.

Everywhere you go, people are buzzing that President Barack Obama has made his choice on the replacement for Justice John Paul Stevens. And the consensus is that the nominee will be Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Politico reports that David, Kash and I will be up late on Sunday:

Look for President Obama to name his Supreme Court pick Monday, and look for it to be Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a former Harvard Law dean. The pick isn’t official, but top White House aides will be shocked if it’s otherwise… The West Wing may leak the pick to AP’s Ben Feller on the later side Sunday, then confirm it for others for morning editions. For now, aides say POTUS hasn’t decided, to their knowledge.

With all the talk about the razor-sharp Judge Diane Wood, the case for the bearded dark-horse Judge Sidney Thomas, and the Republican wet dream (at least, a wet dream within the nightmare of Democratic control) of Judge Merrick Garland, it’s possible that Kagan’s sterling qualifications have been overlooked. She was the front runner, after all.

But let’s remember all of the excellent reasons Kagan was the front runner in the first place…

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Now that President Obama has interviewed the four finalists for the U.S. Supreme Court seat he has to fill — Judge Merrick Garland (D.C. Cir.), Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Judge Sidney Thomas (9th Cir.), and Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir) — the nominee could be announced any day now. Who will it be?

We realize that the betting men (and women) favor Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Kagan is also the pick of Tom Goldstein, the veteran Supreme Court litigator and founder of SCOTUSblog, who correctly forecast the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor (a nomination that the White House sought his counsel on).

But we’re going to go out on a limb and make a crazy prediction: President Obama is going to nominate Judge Diane Wood, of the Seventh Circuit, to the Supreme Court. He’ll announce the nomination on Monday, May 10 — the Monday after Mother’s Day. (That’s significant, for reasons we’ll get to later.)

Right out of the starting gate, immediately after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement, Solicitor General Elena Kagan emerged as the frontrunner for his seat. And Kagan is still widely regarded as the leading candidate.

But, in the past week and a half or so, we’ve felt a slight, almost imperceptible shift in the wind, in favor of Judge Wood….

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Ten reasons Obama might appoint Diane Wood.

For Article III groupies, the InterContinental Hotel in Chicago was the place to be last night. The annual meeting of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference of the Seventh Circuit attracted a bevy of judicial superstars, who mixed and mingled at the conference’s grand banquet.

The most notable luminary was Justice John Paul Stevens, the Circuit Justice for the Seventh Circuit (and a former judge of the Seventh Circuit himself). The 90-year-old Justice Stevens, who is stepping down from the Supreme Court at the end of this Term, was joined at the dinner by several of his possible successors.

Justice Stevens actually had the job of introducing one of them, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who delivered the keynote address. In the audience were several other short-listers, including Judges Diane Wood and Ann Claire Williams, of the Seventh Circuit, and Judge Ruben Castillo, of the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

So, what went down at the dinner?

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Shortly after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his upcoming retirement from the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan emerged as a leading candidate to fill his seat. The phrase “Team Kagan” started popping up all over the place (as we noted in our Twitter feed). Numerous users of Twitter and Facebook, as well as many bloggers and observers of the Court, proudly proclaimed themselves members of “Team Kagan.”

Over the weekend, Team Kagan may have gained another prominent member: former President Bill Clinton. In an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” Clinton said that he and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are simply too old for SCOTUS. “I’d like to see [President Obama] put someone in there, late 40s, early 50s, on the court and someone with a lot of energy for the job,” Clinton said.

Hmm…. Of the three leading candidates for the Court — Elena Kagan, Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.), and Judge Merrick Garland (D.C. Cir.) — only one, Kagan, fits the “late forties / early fifties” demographic. Kagan is 49, turning 50 later this month (on April 28). Wood is 59 — although she’s in great health, and looks like a million bucks. Garland is 57.

Then ex-president Clinton took another step towards openly endorsing Kagan. He urged Obama to consider someone from outside the judiciary. Again, of the three leading candidates, Kagan is the only non-judge. (Judges Wood and Garland were appointed to their judicial posts — by President Clinton, as a matter of fact — in 1995 and 1997, respectively.)

Going into this weekend, Solicitor General Kagan was already viewed as the frontrunner for JPS’s seat. We’ve said so here at Above the Law (here and here), and she’s also the nominee predicted by our readers (and by Fantasy SCOTUS players, too). Tom Goldstein, over at SCOTUSblog, has flat-out declared that “[o]n October 4, 2010, Elena Kagan will ask her first question as a Supreme Court justice.”

The apparent support of a former president can only increase Kagan’s lead. But what about the issue of her (real or perceived) sexual orientation?

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And what team does Elena Kagan play for?

The speculation continues over who will be nominated to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. If you’re looking to follow all the latest news and rumor, in addition to reading the usual suspects, like SCOTUSblog, check out the particularly comprehensive coverage over at The Ninth Justice, a blog of the National Journal devoted to the hunt for the next Supreme Court nominee.

According to Jan Crawford of CBS News (and several other reporters), the White House is currently considering about ten possible nominees. Most of the names being bandied about are familiar, especially the three leading candidates: Judge Merrick Garland, 57, of the D.C. Circuit; Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 49; and Judge Diane Wood, 59, of the Seventh Circuit. Professor Orin Kerr has a very funny post over at the Volokh Conspiracy showing just how “diverse” this trio is.

One notable name is out of the running: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The White House has indicated that it’s very happy with the work Secretary Clinton is doing in her current post, according to The Caucus blog.

And one notable name has been added to the SCOTUS speculation: Judge Sidney R. Thomas, of the Ninth Circuit (and next in line to lead that court, after current Chief Judge Alex Kozinski passes the gavel).

We know Judge Thomas — we clerked on the Ninth, presented cases to him on a screening panel, and hung out with him a bit at last year’s judicial conference — and we could see him as a Supreme Court nominee. He’s very smart and very progressive, but charming and strategic about his liberal politics, which can’t be said for all of his colleagues. In addition, as Jan Crawford notes, “he is a quintessential DC-outsider,” a graduate of the University of Montana law school whose nomination “would further a populist storyline.” So, even though he’s a white male from the Ninth Circuit — which would give Republican senators an opportunity to bash that (in)famously left-wing court — we could certainly see Judge Thomas as a possible nominee.

But a few former Ninth Circuit clerks whom we contacted about SRT (as he’s known on the Ninth) were more skeptical. Said one: “Can’t believe it is serious. Makes no sense. Some former clerk floated him for vanity purposes.”

As it turns out, a former Sid Thomas clerk might be involved in his appearance on the short list….

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Plus a pair of reader polls.

Potential Supreme Court nominees?

For weeks, the media laundry machine has been circulating news of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’s impending retirement. Now that the buzzer has gone off on that, it’s time to switch to the next cycle: speculation as to who President Barack Obama will nominate to replace him.

President Obama has been dragging his feet in his appointment of federal judges. We are relieved to hear that he is going to pick up the pace for announcing his Supreme Court pick. ABC News reports that the White House is prepared — thanks to Stevens’s public pondering — and that the announcement will come “within weeks.” Which isn’t really very helpful at all. Two weeks? Four weeks? Twelve weeks?

BLT reports on Obama’s speech from the Rose Garden today:

“While we cannot replace Justice Stevens’ experience or wisdom, I will seek someone in the coming weeks with similar qualities — an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law, and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people,” Obama said. “It will also be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.”

Please make it fast, Obama. We’re ready to move on to the confirmation hearing cycle!

Let’s speculate until then, though…

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With apologies to John Paul “I’m not dead yet” Stevens, speculation has been rampant about who will replace him, if he decides to retire.

Many of the names that came up after Souter retired are bubbling back to the surface, but U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan has to be considered the front runner. Obama hasn’t said anything and Stevens is, you know, still there — but that didn’t stop the Harvard Crimson from handicapping the chances of former Harvard Law School Dean Kagan:

In the face of Justice John Paul Stevens’ impending retirement, the nomination of former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan for the open seat on the Supreme Court has become a likely prospect.

If she is selected as President Barack Obama’s nominee, Kagan—who currently serves as the nation’s first female Solicitor General—will face a number of challenges on the road toward confirmation, including her lack of experience as a judge, her religious background, and her stance on the military.

Man, the “impending retirement” of J.P. Stevens is turning into a a Monty Python skit. But, so long as we’re here, let’s take another look at that religious question. It might be the only thing that could scuttle Kagan’s ascendancy to the high Court…

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A question started percolating around the ATL offices this morning (your ATL editors do work out of an office, at least since our moms kicked us out of the basement): Is Kathleen Sullivan the FIRST female named partner in the Am Law 100?

We figured that surely there was at least one other firm that had a female partner with her name in lights. But we’ve thought about it, conferred with the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and googled around a little, and so far we’ve come up empty.

According to a spokesperson from Quinn Emanuel, Kathleen Sullivan is the Alpha female of the Am Law 100:

We believe she is the first female partner to be a named partner in the Am Law 100.

Is this possible? Were all of the top 100 firms named after old white men until today? All of them?

If you know of an exception, send us an email or put it in the comments. Please tell us that we didn’t have to wait until 2010 to cross this threshold. Regardless, we’re always happy to see a woman on top.

Earlier: CHECK YOU FIRM NAME: Quinn Emanuel Adds Kathleen Sullivan to the Stationery

An ATL favorite, Quinn Emanuel, is making a change to its firm name. From the Quinn press release:

John B. Quinn announced today that the firm he and Eric Emanuel founded 25 years ago will change its name, and henceforth be known as Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. The decision to add Kathleen M. Sullivan as a name partner was made in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the firm and the profession. Sullivan is a partner in the firm’s New York City office and heads the firm’s national appellate practice.

Congratulations to former Stanford Law School dean Sullivan.

Of course, now that she’s a name partner, we are eagerly awaiting for the ATL community to honor Kathleen Sullivan with her own meme. John Quinn doesn’t use capital letters. Bill Urquhart … really likes capital letters. We can’t wait to see what Sullivan comes up with.

Read the full press release, plus an UPDATE with some observations from Lat, after the jump.

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