Today we’re continuing with the list of potential nominees for a Supreme Court vacancy. Most of the candidates are female, though one or two men have been brought up as possible nominees. As with the previous set of nominees, many of the following have extensive private practice and/or law enforcement backgrounds. See part one here.
Ruemmler is the current White House Counsel and at 41 years old, she is the youngest person currently under consideration. While she has no judicial experience, she’s enjoyed a fast-track career in both private practice and in government. Ruemmler was an associate counsel under President Bill Clinton and she was the lead prosecutor in the government’s case against Enron in 2006. She delivered the closing arguments for the trials of Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Dimmler, who both received convictions. She has supervised the vetting of both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and headed the defense of the Affordable Healthcare Act, which was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court. Her age and lack of judicial experience may work against her; however, there is precedent for nominating White House counsel for a Supreme court vacancy. George W. Bush did it with his counsel Harriet Miers, though she eventually withdrew her nomination. Ruemmler has been praised for her legal expertise and for her passion. If Ruemmler was tapped for the high court, she could have a long career as a solidly liberal justice that could help steer the court for years to come.
Lisa Madigan is the attorney general for the state of Illinois and a former state senator. Before becoming an attorney, she was a teacher and community organizer. As a state senator, she worked just down the hall from then state senator Barack Obama. She is probably most well-known for seeking a motion to have Governor Rod Blagojevich temporarily removed from office in 2008, though that motion failed. She’s also the first Illinois Attorney General in 25 years to argue a case before the Supreme Court. In the case of Illinois v Caballes, Madigan argued for the “ability of police officers to use specially trained dogs without a search warrant or probable cause to detect the presence of illegal drugs during traffic stops.” The court upheld the ruling. Given that she has the requisite law enforcement background that seems to appease Republicans and the fact that she’s worked with President Obama, she is a favored candidate. However, Madigan may aspire to more than just a seat on the Supreme Court bench. The New York Times cited her as one of seventeen women who could potentially be the first female president of the United States.
Judge Diane Wood
Arguably, the most qualified candidate for a vacancy, Judge Diane Wood currently serves on the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Chicago. She’s been on the short list before, both in 2009 and 2010 when the vacancies were eventually filled by Sotomayor and Kagan. She’s served on the court of appeals since 1995 when she was appointed by former President Bill Clinton and is the liberal balancing force for Judges Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook, who, incidentally, were considered for the Supreme Court under President George W. Bush. Wood has had a long legal career and she’s only the third woman to be hired as a professor at the University of Chicago School of Law where she teaches part-time. She’s also only the second woman to sit on the Seventh Circuit. She is a favorite among legal analysts and like Ruemmler, would be a guaranteed progressive voice for the court. However, her age may put a damper on her chances for appointment. At 64, it is unknown how long she would serve as a Supreme Court justice.
Although most of the potential nominees for the SCOTUS vacancy are women and it’s the preference of the administration to replace Justice Ginsburg with another woman, there a some men who are also under consideration.
Judge Paul Watford
Judge Watford was recently appointed to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, San Francisco after a threatened filibuster of his appointment by Republicans in the Senate. He’s within the ideal age range and African-American, which is important since the administration has placed a high priority on nominating minority justices. He’s already one of two African-American judges on the 9th Circuit, the busiest one in the country. Watford received his BA from Berkley and his law degree from UCLA. He has clerked for both a conservative judge (Alex Kozinski on the 9th Circuit) and a liberal one (Ruth Bader Ginsburg). He’s a former federal prosecutor and law partner and though he had a hard time getting the appointment, he’s been praised by conservative legal experts like conservative UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh as being an ideological moderate. While it may make the nomination process easier, the fact that Watford is a moderate may not sit well with many who want a more progressive voice on the court to fill Justice Ginsburg’s shoes.
Judge Merrick Garland
Judge Garland sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit and was a finalist for the open seats on the Supreme Court that eventually went to Sotomayor and Kagan. Like Watford, he would be seen as a compromise choice as he is more of a moderate than a progressive. The fact that he sits on the D.C. Circuit also works in his favor as four justices came from that circuit. If Democrats are successful in discarding the Senate filibuster, compromise choices like Garland may not be necessary. However, he is widely respected. Garland graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and magna cum laude from Harvard Law. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. and his personal hero was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Garland served as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General and helped supervise the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers and the Unabomber. Given the love affair that conservatives have for those with prosecution or law enforcement backgrounds, this may play well in a confirmation hearing.