MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Since Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement last week, Washington has been awash in a name game of sorts. Only the White House knows for sure who's actually being considered to replace Justice Stevens, but that has not prevented court watchers from floating their own names.
NPR: Hillary Clinton.
NINA TOTENBERG: Right. Never has been.
NORRIS: But there are three names that seem to be in heavy rotation. Can we begin with those three names?
TOTENBERG: And the third name is Merrick Garland, a judge on the D.C. court of appeals who was a top Justice Department official, oversaw the Oklahoma City investigation and is probably the favorite of Republicans.
NORRIS: So those are the three people whose names are most often mentioned, but there are other people out there whose ears might be ringing when people start discussing the potential nominees.
TOTENBERG: And some of these you've heard before, were on the list before: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, the Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Leah Ward Sears, the former chief justice of the state supreme court in Georgia, who's African-American. Sidney Thomas, a judge on the federal appeals court based in California. He's from Montana. And that name makes particular sense to me at least to be in the mix because he's a Westerner. There's nobody on the court who's from the West, except for Anthony Kennedy. And Sid Thomas is from the mountain West. He's from Montana and he represented small businesses. And he has a - he's well-regarded. He's kind of a quiet, unassuming guy with some intellectual firepower. So that name makes sense to me.
TARP: Martha Minow, the current dean of Harvard Law School, who's an old friend of Barack Obama. Elizabeth Warren, who's the chairman of the board that oversees the TARP, and while that would send the, you know, big banks probably completely crazy, it, you know, you could see the rhetorical appeal of a nominee like that. She predicted the crash. She has the rhetoric of everyman. And so, you know, you can see the political appeal of that, and she's a really, really smart Harvard Law School professor.
NORRIS: Now, you always wonder how these names wind up in circulation because the White House claims to be mum about all this. Is there any benefit to putting someone's name out there?
TOTENBERG: Well, first of all, it appeases different elements in the party. So, one of the other names, for example, Gary Locke, the secretary of commerce is put out there. You know, so, there are different people of different interests and it just, it helps cover your political bases.
NORRIS: What can you tell us about when we can expect to get the name of the actual nominee from the White House?
TOTENBERG: So we could have hearings in June, a vote in the committee after the July 4th recess, and then a floor vote before the August recess. At least that's the Democratic plan, but, hey, plans are made to be broken and Republicans see this nomination as an opportunity to galvanize their base and they don't want it to end soon.
NORRIS: Thank you, Nina.
TOTENBERG: Thank you.
NORRIS: That's NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.
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