Leahy gives Obama his top choices for Supreme Court replacement

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy has some ideas for President Obama about who should replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. 

VPR’s Jane Lindholm has more.

(Lindholm) Speaking today on Vermont Edition, Senator Leahy said he’s already given President Obama his top choices for Souter’s replacement. 

(Leahy) "I told him I’d give them to him in private.  Some of them are the same names that he’s looking at.  But I think he will make an announcement soon."

(Lindholm) Leahy says he’d like to see the Supreme Court reflect the US population, with more women and minorities on the court.  And he has suggested choosing a nominee who has not made a career as a judge.

(Leahy) "Judges lead a fairly isolated life, in many ways not a real life, because they don’t want to get involved in conflicts of interest.  But I listen to some of the questions being asked in some of the arguments before the Supreme Court and I hear justices who don’t really have a sense of the real world."

(Lindholm) Once President Obama announces his choice for Supreme Court Justice, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings. 

Senator Leahy says he supported the most recent nominee, John Roberts, for Chief Justice, because he didn’t want a party line vote. But Leahy says both the nomination process and the nominees themselves have become far too partisan.

(Leahy) "I regret the nomination that President Bush made, but I don’t regret the vote.  But I’ve been trying very much to get the Supreme Court out of the partisan box it got itself into after it decided the presidential election in the Bush Gore race. And I’ve been trying very hard to get them back out of that."

(Lindholm) Whoever President Obama chooses as a nominee will still have to go through a tough confirmation process.  And with Arlen Specter’s recent change of party affiliation, conservative Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama will now be the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. 

For VPR News, I’m Jane Lindholm.

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