(Adds other potential candidates)
April 9 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is considering “about 10” people as potential nominees to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, an administration official said on Friday.
The official did not identify any of the potential candidates. But following is a look at three potential leading contenders and three other possibilities, according to Obama administration officials and legal experts. [ID:nN09104454]
* Elena Kagan, 49, is the U.S. solicitor general, appointed by Obama in January last year to argue cases before the Supreme Court. She is the first female solicitor general, working at the U.S. Justice Department as the federal government’s top appellate attorney.
A former Harvard Law School dean, Kagan was one of the finalists for last year’s Supreme Court vacancy before Obama selected U.S. appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York.
Kagan, known for a keen legal intellect, won support from conservatives at Harvard. She previously served as associate White House counsel to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and taught at the University of Chicago Law School, where Obama also taught.
She was a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, whose appointment in 1967 marked the last time that a solicitor general had been appointed to the Supreme Court.
Kagan won confirmation as solicitor general by a 61-31 vote in the Senate. Some Republicans voiced concern about her lack of courtroom experience and her opposition to on-campus military recruiting at Harvard because of U.S. policy barring gays from serving openly in the armed forces.
* Diane Wood, 59, a U.S. appeals court judge in Chicago, knows Obama from teaching at the University of Chicago Law School. She also had been among the finalists for last year’s Supreme Court opening.
The highly regarded Wood served in the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division during the Clinton administration and is widely considered one of the nation’s top experts on international competition law.
The oboe-playing Wood, a strong supporter of abortion rights, is seen as a moderate liberal who could provide an intellectual counterpoint to the court’s conservatives.
Nominated to the appeals court by President Bill Clinton in 1995, Wood won unanimous confirmation by the Senate.
* Merrick Garland, 57, is a U.S. appeals court judge in Washington, D.C. Born in Chicago, Garland has been considered a judicial moderate, known for writing thorough, well-reasoned opinions.
Clinton named Garland to the appeals court and in 1997 he won Senate approval by a 76-23 vote. He previously worked in the U.S. Justice Department during the Clinton administration as a top aide to the deputy attorney general.
Garland’s responsibilities included supervising the investigation into the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City and the prosecution of “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski, who killed three people and injured 23 others in a bombing campaign that began in 1978.
* Cass Sunstein, 55, has been appointed by Obama to the White House post of regulatory czar, overseeing all governmental regulation.
Sunstein formerly taught at Harvard Law School, and before that spent 27 years at the University of Chicago Law School, where he became acquainted with Obama. The president is known to think highly of Sunstein, a legal scholar, especially in the fields of constitutional and administrative law.
Sunstein, who has written a number of books, has advocated a judicial minimalism philosophy that judges should try to narrowly decide a specific case and avoid sweeping changes in the law with far-reaching effects.
In 2008, Sunstein married Samantha Power, another Harvard professor. They met working as advisers to Obama’s presidential campaign. He is a former clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall.
* Jennifer Granholm, 51, is in her second and final term as Michigan’s first female governor. She must leave office this year.
The Canadian-born Granholm, a Democrat and Harvard Law graduate, previously had been the state’s attorney general, focusing on consumer protection and individual rights.
Michigan’s economic crisis, massive job losses and an ailing auto industry have been blamed for her low approval ratings.
She has served as an assistant U.S. attorney and a county corporation counsel, but has never been a judge.
Granholm, a member of Obama’s transition team before he assumed office, received consideration for last year’s Supreme Court vacancy, but was not one of the finalists.
* Janet Napolitano, 52, is the homeland security secretary appointed by Obama. She formerly was the Democratic governor of Arizona.
Napolitano was another finalist for the vacancy that went to Sotomayor. On Friday, a Department of Homeland Security official said Napolitano “would be flattered if the president considered her, but she is completely focused on the important and demanding position she currently has.”
She was criticized after a failed Christmas Day airplane bombing attempt for first saying the air security system had worked during the incident aboard a U.S.-bound plane and then backtracking by saying she meant the system of beefing up measures had worked after the incident.
Napolitano was widely seen as having been picked for the Homeland Security post because she had been closely involved in immigration issues as governor of a state bordering Mexico.
In 1991, she was an attorney who helped represent law professor Anita Hill, who charged Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on his nomination to the Supreme Court. Napolitano’s role in that case helped spur Senate Republicans to hold up her nomination for more than a year when Democratic President Bill Clinton tipped her as U.S. attorney for Arizona in 1993.
She is the third person, and the first woman, to be head of the sprawling Homeland Security department, which Republican President George W. Bush formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Compiled by James Vicini; Editing by David Alexander and Bill Trott