This viewpoint, which reflects those of Freedom Communications, was written by the editorial staff at the Orange County (Calif.) Register.
All eyes are on President Barack Obama’s list of potential nominees to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Many argue the real question is whether the nominee will be left-leaning, left or far-left. But President Obama might opt for a centrist rather than spark more partisan warfare by nominating an extreme liberal.
Obama said his nominee would have a “dedication to the rule of law and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people.” The president also emphasized haste, stating the new justice should be seated in time for start of the next term in October, possibly signaling concern that the confirmation fight could carry on until after the November elections. To accomplish a speedy confirmation the president will have to avoid ultraliberal nominees who would prompt staunch resistance from Senate Republicans.
The White House’s “short list” of nominees reportedly includes Diane Wood, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Judge Merrick Garland from the D.C. Circuit court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears.
Judge Wood and Kagan were mentioned as potential replacements for Justice David Souter prior to Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment last year.
Judge Wood has perhaps the most liberal position on the Constitution, arguing it should be interpreted flexibly to account for changing social agendas. Kagan’s views on the Constitution are widely unknown because she lacks a “paper trail” of judicial positions. She has gained notoriety for recruiting conservative professors and her advocacy for gay rights while dean of Harvard’s law school.
Secretary Napolitano would be a questionable pick; she has been criticized for a lackluster performance at Homeland Security, once referring to terrorism as “man-caused disasters.”
Sears would be the first African-American woman on the court. While many of her opinions lean left, she has a friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas — perhaps the purest constitutionalist on the high court — which is at least a ray of hope.
Garland is probably the most centrist of those thought to be on Obama’s short list. He has experience handling high-profile terror trials, like the Oklahoma City bombing case, and is well-known as a none-too-ideological adjudicator.
Obama should look for a nominee with a more centrist approach to the law. Chances of a strict constitutionalist appointee are nil, but given current political realities, there is hope for a centrist replacement for Justice Stevens.