President Obama interviews Diane Wood for Supreme Court

President Obama interviewed Judge Diane Wood of Illinois Tuesday for the pending US Supreme Court opening.

By , Reuters

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met on Tuesday with Diane Wood, a federal appeals court judge seen as one of the most liberal of the potential nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court, a source with knowledge of the conversations said on Wednesday.

With congressional elections ahead in November, Obama is expected to decide quickly on a nominee for the seat being vacated by Justice John Paul Stevens. The retiring justice is the leading liberal on the court.

Administration officials said Obama could announce his pick as soon as this week. He has been interviewing potential nominees from a short list in recent days.

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The favorites are U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan; Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., and Wood, who sits on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Obama has also met with Sidney Thomas, a federal appeals court judge in San Francisco with a more liberal record than some potential nominees.

Administration officials have confirmed that the four are on Obama's short list, which had included about 10 names, although they have declined to say how many are now on it.

Wood, who strongly supports abortion rights, may get a rough ride from Senate Republicans in a confirmation hearing. Analysts say Garland would attract the most support from Republicans of those on Obama's list.

Obama was meeting on Wednesday with senators Orrin Hatch and Jon Kyl, both Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Democratic president's pick is not expected to shift the basic ideological balance of the closely divided court, which now has five conservative and four liberal justices.

CONFIRMATION FIGHT AHEAD

Republicans, the minority party in Congress, have said little of Obama's potential picks since Stevens announced last month he would retire this summer. White House officials say they expect a tough confirmation fight no matter who is nominated.

Stevens is known as a consensus-builder whose intellect and persuasiveness have at times helped push the conservative-leaning court to his opinions. Administration officials say Obama is seeking a liberal of intellectual heft who also possesses consensus-building skills.

Obama has said he wants to announce his pick by the end of May, so the new justice can be confirmed before the next Supreme Court term begins in October. He announced his first court nominee, then-federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, on May 26, 2009. She was confirmed in early August.

Analysts said it makes sense for Obama to try to get through a distracting confirmation process as soon as possible before elections in November in which his fellow Democrats will be fighting to keep their majorities in Congress.

Also said to be on Obama's short list: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Martha Minow, the dean of Harvard Law School; Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm; Ann Claire Williams, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leah Ward Sears, who retired last year as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Related stories:

Filling John Paul Stevens Supreme Court vacancy big test for Obama

Obama: 'civil, thoughtful' hearings on new Supreme Court justice

Stevens retirement gives Obama second Supreme Court pick

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