Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, the Supreme Court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, announced on April 9, 2010, that he will retire this summer. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill. Here's a look at the top contenders to replace Stevens.
This June 2008 photo provided by the University of Chicago shows Judge Diane Wood. The 59-year-old has a paper trail of opinions that appears most likely to generate sustained opposition from Senate Republicans and conservative interest groups. Even as she was being considered last year, conservatives cited her opinion in a 2001 case that went against anti-abortion protesters who wanted to blockade clinics. The Supreme Court reversed the ruling.
But she also has served for 15 years as a judge on the same court as two prominent conservatives, Judges Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is noted for its collegiality, despite ideological divisions, a point that could appeal to Obama.
Credit: AP Photo/University of Chicago, Lloyd DeGrane, File
Judge Merrick Garland
Judge Merrick B. Garland, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is pictured before the start of a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Washington on May 1, 2008. Garland, 57, is a former high-ranking Justice Department official who is well respected and considered least likely to engender significant Republican opposition.
Like Stevens, Garland was born in Chicago. He has been a federal judge since 1997, including serving for two years with John Roberts before he became chief justice.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan speaks during a panel about Women Advocates of the Supreme Court Bar at the Newseum in Washington on Jan. 28, 2010. The 49-year-old, who has never been a judge, has made a half-dozen arguments in front of the justices in the past year. President Obama made Kagan the first woman to serve as solicitor general; however, 31 Republican senators voted against her confirmation as Solicitor General last year in what was seen as a warning to Obama should he want to put her on the Supreme Court.
Kagan would likely face questions over her objections to campus military recruiters at Harvard, stemming from her disagreement with U.S. policy on gays serving in the military.
Judge Sidney Thomas of Montana is also among the people being considered for the seat. CBS News' Jan Crawford says Thomas is appealing to some because he is a quintessential Washington outsider. He went to law school at the University of Montana and would further a populist storyline.
Credit: AP Photo/9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Secretary Janet Napolitano
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is also under consideration for Justice John Paul Stevens' seat, but sources tell CBS News that she is not a likely candidate. Napolitano's comments that "the system worked" following the Christmas Day terrorist attack would give Republicans a chance to make the confirmation hearings about terrorism.
Also reportedly on the short list is Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, but she also appears unlikely to be chosen. Sears was fined in 2007 for violating state ethics laws for accepting improper campaign contributions. A nominee who was fined for ethics violations would be an easy target for Republicans.
Judge Ann Claire Williams, currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is also on the short list. But the former teacher, prosecutor and district judge appears unlikely to make the final cut.