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Obama considering Napolitano for Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is considering a list of more than six contenders for the Supreme Court that is dominated by women and Hispanics, one that includes judges and leaders from his own administration who have never donned a judicial robe.

Among those under consideration are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Appeals Court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Pamela Wood. California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno is also under review by Obama.

Sources familiar with Obama’s deliberations confirmed the names to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no candidates have been revealed by the White House. The confirmation amounts to the first time any name has been directly tied to Obama.

One official cautioned that Obama is considering other people who have not been publicly mentioned. And more names may be added as the administration considers a replacement for retiring Justice David Souter.

The disclosure came as the president met privately at the White House with four leading senators likely to play a key role in confirmation proceedings. Separately, top aides invited the leaders of several liberal-leaning outside groups to a meeting.

Most of the people confirmed as under consideration have been mentioned frequently as potential candidates. Moreno — the sole man on the known group of candidates — is the newest name to emerge.

The president is widely expected to choose a woman for a Supreme Court that has nine members but only one female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He is also under pressure from some Latino officials to name the nation’s first Hispanic justice. Moreno and Sotomayor are Hispanic.

Obama is likely before month’s end to name a nominee to replace Souter, who is retiring when the court term ends this summer. He is part of the court’s liberal wing, and his replacement by the new Democratic president is not expected to change the high court’s ideological balance.

Obama met Wednesday with senators who will have huge influence over the pace and tone of the confirmation process.

“I don’t envy him the decision, but I think he’s going to make it soon,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said after the private White House session.

Obama met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on Judiciary; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; and Leahy. Vice President Joe Biden, a former Judiciary Committee chairman and veteran of confirmation hearings, also attended.

The Republican senators underscored that they would not seek a rushed confirmation process, noting that it typically takes 60 days for confirmation once a nominee has been announced. Pressed on a timetable, Leahy told reporters: “We’ll work out a decent schedule. Let’s get the nominee first.”

Obama wants his nominee confirmed before the Senate recess in August, which means he would need to name one soon.

“I think he’s still in the initial evaluation process,” Sessions told reporters later in the day. “That’s pretty clear, I think. He’s not settled on one name.”

The senators who met with Obama said he did not discuss specific names with them.

Moreno was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998 to serve as a U.S. District Court judge and the Senate unanimously confirmed him. In 2001 he raised a few eyebrows when he gave up his lifetime federal judgeship to accept Democratic Gov. Gray Davis’ nomination to the state’s high court.

Moreno is the only Democrat on the California Supreme Court and is widely regarded as its most liberal voice. Last year he signed on to the court’s 4-3 ruling that legalized gay marriage in the state. Voters later banned gay marriage in a ballot initiative.

The other known candidates under Obama’s review:

• Granholm, a former federal prosecutor and Michigan attorney general. She has been a fierce spokeswoman for her state’s struggling auto industry and was a strong advocate for Obama during his presidential campaign.

• Napolitano, who stepped down as Arizona’s governor to join the administration and was quickly tested as homeland security chief when the swine flu outbreak hit.

• Wood, an appeals court judge who has worked at the State Department, the Justice Department and in private practice. Like Obama, she is a former professor at the University of Chicago.

• Kagan, who stepped down as dean of Harvard Law School to become the nation’s first female solicitor general. Like Obama, she is a graduate of Harvard who later taught of the University of Chicago law school. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and worked in the Clinton White House.

• Sotomayor, an appeals court judge and former New York prosecutor and private lawyer. President George H.W. Bush nominated her as a federal judge; Clinton nominated her to the appeals court.

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