Now that the fabulous Elena Kagan has been officially nominated to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, some folks have been wondering: What does the future hold for the unsuccessful shortlisters? Let’s consider them, one by one.
1. Judge Merrick Garland (D.C. Cir.): The brilliant D.C. Circuit judge — practically a “tenth justice” himself, due to his ridiculous success in feeding his clerks to the Court — could be considered for a future vacancy. He’s young enough, at 57, and the Garland clerk mafia is strong, with representation in the White House counsel’s office and other D.C. power centers.
Garland is the SCOTUS candidate who would be most appealing to conservatives, so his chances of appointment are directly proportional to Republican representation in the Senate. My advice for Judge Garland: vote Republican.
2. Judge Sidney Thomas (9th Cir.): The well-regarded Ninth Circuit judge’s appearance on Obama’s short list surprised some, but it really shouldn’t have. Sid Thomas is very smart and very liberal, and he would add diversity to the Court (as a Montanan, non-Ivy Leaguer, and Protestant).
“Sidney Thomas is being thrown around in case [Justice Anthony M.] Kennedy steps down in the next two years,” a D.C. insider involved in the nomination process told me. “As far as we can tell, Obama likes [Sid Thomas] and wants to introduce him as a possibility to make him more palatable next time around.”
If Justice Kennedy, 73, were to leave the Court, it would be without any West Coast representation. Nominating Judge Thomas — a member of the Ninth Circuit, just like AMK was before his elevation — would remedy that.
My advice for Judge Thomas: pray for Justice Kennedy to have a heart attack.
3. Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.): It pains me to say this, because I adore Judge Wood, but this go-around was her last best chance at the Court. This July 4, Judge Wood will turn 60, viewed by some as the upper bound for a nominee in terms of age. As one of my friends observed on Facebook, Wood is on her way to becoming the liberal version of Judge Edith Jones, whose numerous unsuccessful appearances on shortlists led Slate to dub her “Susan Lucci in judicial robes.”
My advice for Judge Wood: enjoy Chicago. Or pray for ill to befall Justice Ginsburg very, very quickly — if RBG leaves soon, you might still have a shot.
In addition, I have a rather significant CORRECTION, concerning some speculation I passed along last night. The rumor was that Daniel Meltzer, the deputy White House counsel who recently announced his resignation to return to the Harvard Law School faculty, harbors a grudge against Kagan — because she beat him out for the HLS deanship — and that Meltzer therefore lobbied against her nomination to the Court.
So…. just how wrong was I about tension between Kagan and Meltzer?