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Monday round-up — part two

Although Justice Stevens’ announcement marked only the beginning of the process by which his successor will be nominated and confirmed, nomination speculation was nonetheless abundant this weekend.  Robert Barnes of the Washington Post suggested that President Obama would find it difficult to replace Justice Stevens’ ability to assemble a majority for his view, while Seth Stern opined in Slate that the days of consensus-building at the Court are long gone.  Also in the Washington Post, Scott Wilson sketched the political terrain – the pending midterm elections – against which the President will make his nomination.  Andrew Cohen of the Atlantic and Lyle Denniston of this blog suggested that Justice Kennedy would now wield even greater influence on the Court, while Ruth Marcus suggested in the Washington Post that the eventual nominee would push the Court further to the right.  In the New York Times, op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow reported on (and echoed) Justice O’Connor’s expressed preference for another female Justice and a nominee without prior judicial experience.

Most media outlets agreed that Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit, and Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit were the leading candidates for the post.

In the Los Angeles Times, James Oliphant and Richard Serrano noted the professional connections that the three leading candidates shared, while Orin Kerr made light of their similar credentials.  Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Charlie Savage of the New York Times framed the President’s decision as a choice “to be bold or play it safe,” with Judge Garland the safest of the three candidates and Judge Wood the riskiest because of her strong public support for abortion rights.  At Slate, Christopher Beam concurred in that description and listed candidates who might provoke even greater Republican resistance than would Judge Wood.

In USA Today, Joan Biskupic offered a similar take, describing General Kagan and Judge Garland as “likely to garner easy consensus among senators,” where Judge Wood, a “liberal stalwart,” might provoke greater opposition.  (Biskupic also compiled a longer list, based upon the candidates that had been considered to succeed Justice Souter.)  Bob Secter and Rex Huppke profiled Judge Wood for the Chicago Tribune, with a focus on her local connections.

Like other coverage of the retirement and expected nomination, James Oliphant, Janet Hook and Christi Parson of the Los Angeles Times characterized the President as facing a choice of how much political capital to spend on a nomination fight.  Greg Stohr of Bloomberg put forward the same list of three potential nominees.  Attention also turned to the possibility that – depending on whom the President nominates to fill the vacancy – the Court could be left without a Protestant Justice for the first time in its history.  Laura Mecklin, Jess Bravin and Peter Wallsten of the Wall Street Journal noted that of the most commonly mentioned potential nominees, only Judge Wood was a Protestant, while Adam Liptak of the New York Times suggested that “it is unlikely that religious affiliation will play a leading role in the decision making” for this nomination.  Linda Feldmann and Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor recalled the lessons learned from the failed nomination of Robert Bork, while Christian Science Monitor guest blogger Tim Kane encouraged the president to choose a candidate with some economic expertise.

Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal predicted that General Kagan’s stand (while dean of Harvard Law School) on gay rights and military recruiting would prove to be the most controversial issue for her.   At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Kopel ranked the records of the candidates on gun rights.

The Washington Post established a page with biographical information on eleven potential nominees; it also asked legal and political experts to suggest candidates, while Slate did the same.  Tobin Harshaw of the New York Times analyzed early commentary on the most likely nominees.  The National Journal revived its blog, The Ninth Justice, to track nomination news.

Senators and commentators have begun to set expectations for the timeline on which the confirmation process will proceed.  Senator Patrick Leahy expects the nominee to be on the bench for the beginning of the new term, as both the Associated Press and Kathleen Hunter of CQ Politics report.  On this blog, Kevin Russell recounted the pace of Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation and suggested that a vote on Justice Stevens’ successor might come by August 6.  Blogging for the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin pointed out that Justice Stevens’ decision to retire effective at the end of this term (rather than upon the confirmation of his successor) would place added pressure on the Senate to confirm a nominee this summer.

Republican leaders are gearing up for the nomination process and weighing their strategic options.  Peter Baker and Carl Hulse of the New York Times describe the Republicans as balancing a desire to avoid be labeled as obstructionist against the opportunity to highlight their differences with the Democrats.  Matt DeLong reported for the Washington Post on Republican demands for a “mainstream” nominee, though he suggested that a filibuster was unlikely.  Sarah Lynch and Yochi Dreazen of the Wall Street Journal report that Republicans have not yet ruled out the possibility of a filibuster, and Glenn Thrush of Politico describes the Republican leaders as “on the defensive” over the issue.  Kent Faulk of The Birmingham News evaluated the choice facing Senator Jeff Sessions, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The editorial board of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized the discussion of a filibuster before a nominee had even been named.