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The Supremes

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Ronda Kaysen: Barack Obama is under serious pressure to appoint a woman to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court. With only one woman -- 76-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is battling cancer -- left on the bench, it seems like a reasonable decision. That is, until you talk to your average American.

barack obama speaking outside

Nearly two-thirds of Americans don't think it matters if Obama taps a woman for the job, according to a new Gallup poll. They care even less about race. Only 32 percent care if the justice is Hispanic, and a mere 26 percent care if the first African-American president appoints a black justice to the court.

But Obama's pressure is coming from other places. Senators on both sides of the aisle -- Barbara Boxer on the left and Olympia Snowe on the right -- sent Obama a joint letter urging him to tap a woman for the job. And the pundits have been talking nonstop about why he must tap a woman. After all, women make up 50 percent of the population, but only one of them sits on the nine-justice bench.

A look at the short list of Obama's picks indicates that in all likelihood, he will heed the politicos and pick a woman.

The New York Times compiled a list of the frontrunners. Their top five picks are below. Who do you think should be the next justice to sit on the Supreme Court? Does it matter to you if the candidate is a woman?

Elena Kagan
Graduated summa cum laude from Princeton; supervising editor at Harvard Law Review; graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School; in private practice before teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, where Barack Obama was a colleague; recently became Mr. Obama's solicitor general. Ms. Kagan is also viewed as among the most likely candidates by legal and political scholars.

Leah Ward Sears
Graduated from Cornell University and Emory University School of Law; judge on Atlanta city court; became first black woman to serve on Georgia Superior Court; then became first woman and youngest person to serve on Georgia Supreme Court. Also seen as among the top five contenders by legal and political scholars.

Diane Pamela Wood

Graduated summa cum laude from the University of Texas; graduated from University of Texas Law School; clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun; served in Justice Department's Antitrust Division; named to Seventh Circuit by President Clinton. Early analysis from legal and political scholars suggests she is among the most likely candidates.

Sonia Sotomayor
Graduated summa cum laude from Princeton; was editor of Yale Law Journal; assistant district attorney in Manhattan; in private practice before nominated for federal district court judgeship by President George H. W. Bush in 1992; nominated for United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, by President Bill Clinton in 1997. Considered by legal and political scholars as among the most likely candidates.

Janet Napolitano

Graduated from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif., and the University of Virginia law school; worked as a United States attorney and state attorney general; elected governor of Arizona in 2002, easily re-elected in 2006; confirmed as the Obama administration's homeland security secretary on Jan. 20. Also seen as one of the most likely candidates, according to early analysis by legal and political scholars.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kirstie May 17, 2009, 9:31 AM

I think the pressure to appoint a woman is unnecessary. If a woman is the most qualified candidate then yes, appoint her - but if a man is more qualified then he deserves the job.

I’d like to see the person best suited to the job placed in the position regardless of genitalia!

Bec Thomas May 17, 2009, 7:00 PM

I think the best qualified person should be choosen, no matter their gender or race.

b May 17, 2009, 11:54 PM

So, does aren’t the people supposed to tell our reps what to tell the pres? I thought that’s how a republic worked. I don’t know why the pres should “cave” to what the politicians want, when the rest of us are ok with the best person regardless of race/gender. I wish that for once, people in charge listened to people who put them in charge and stopped trying to create this perceived image of what the people want. If the pres had any kind of spine, he’d tell the politicians to settle themselves and just do what was best for the country.

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