No Names Discussed at Obama Supreme Court Meeting

Posted April 21, 2010 at 11:26am

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) emerged from a Wednesday meeting with President Barack Obama confident about the path ahead for replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens by the fall.

Reid said the bipartisan meeting had “a really good tone” and he commended Obama for telling the group to “just call him directly” if anybody has suggestions for nominees to the high court. Reid said nobody discussed potential nominees in the meeting, but he and Leahy both said they have privately made suggestions to the president. The Majority Leader said he would prefer an individual who is not a circuit court judge.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) were also in the meeting but declined to talk to reporters afterward.

“I personally feel it should be someone who is an academic, someone who’s held public office, someone’s who is an outstanding lawyer. And the president said he’ll take that into consideration,” Reid said.

Leahy made no qualms about backing a liberal nominee to balance what he considers a right-leaning court. Stevens is considered a liberal leader of the court.

“We have right now a very, very activist — conservative activist — Supreme Court,” Leahy said, pointing to high-profile cases that were recently decided on a one-vote margin, such as the Lily Ledbetter case and the Citizens United case.

Those decisions do “not reflect the American people. It reflects more of a partisan agenda. I would hope that the president’s nominee can get us back away from that and reflect the American people,” Leahy said.

Before heading into the meeting, Obama said he doesn’t have “litmus tests” for Supreme Court candidates on contentious issues such as abortion, although he reiterated his own support for women’s rights.

“I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights. And that’s going to be something that’s very important to me,” Obama said.

The president said he is “certainly” going to put up a nominee by the end of May — which is the same time last year that he nominated Justice Sonia Sotomayor — and hopes that “we can accelerate it a little bit so that we have some additional time.”