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Still picking Obama’s Supreme Court

The eldest members of the nation’s highest court have all but said they aren’t going anywhere when President-elect Barack Obama takes office. Still, picking Supreme Court candidates to fill hypothetical vacancies is a favorite pastime of judicial junkies.

The latest list, complied by Salon, notes that Obama will inherit a Court with two young, freshly-appointed conservatives from President Bush. Obama also faces a promise by Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona to filibuster any Court nominee he deems too liberal (assuming the GOP holds on to its filibuster power when the election counts are done).

Given that, a panel legal experts predict Obama will likely select moderate jurists, lean towards women and people of color to increase the Court’s diversity, and choose young candidates to make a lasting impact on the Court.

The experts’ picks:

sotomayorJudge Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor, a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal, came from humble Bronx beginnings to rise to one of the country’s most powerful courts. That she is a Hispanic woman is an extra draw.

devalpatrick1Gov. Deval Patrick. Massachusetts’ first black governor and longtime friend of Obama fits the president-elect’s desire to tap people from places other than federal courts. Patrick has experience both in President Clinton’s Justice Department and as an executive at large corporations.

Elena Kagan. The Harvard Law dean has frequently been mentioned as a likely choice.

garlandJudge Merrick Garland. The judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is also an alum of  Clinton’s Justice Department, where he handled the Unibomber and Oklahoma City bombing cases.

Judge Diane P. Wood. As noted by Lawyers USA, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge has the reputation of being a jurist with a record moderate enough to garner support – or at least to avoid strong opposition – from Senate Republicans.

sunsteinCass Sunstein. The legal scholar and Harvard Law professor was an Obama campaign advisor. His belief in narrowly-tailored judicial rulings could win over GOP Senate votes.

granholmGov. Jennifer Granholm. The Michigan governor and campaign advisor (who stood in for Sarah Palin during V.P.-elect Joe Biden’s debate prep) has a strong executive resumé that counters her lack of judicial experience.

Other names on the list include Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, Yale Law School dean Harold Hongju Koh, and U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo.

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