A LATERAL HAND-OFF ... SIDE STEPPING
Her general election opponent, Republican nominee Donald Trump, has taken a different tack, releasing a list of 11 possible nominees. That list, released in May, included several judges often found on conservative wish lists, reassuring groups on the right.
Still, while Clinton hasn’t followed Trump’s lead in releasing names, advocates say her most likely choices for a high court appointment are already apparent.
The Hill talked to three well-connected groups in Washington about Clinton's Supreme Court options should she win the White House. None would go on the record, citing the sensitivities surrounding the issue.
But there’s broad agreement about who Clinton would be most likely to consider, not only for the vacancy already on the court, but also the additional ones that could open up over the next four years if liberals like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Anthony Kennedy were to retire.
Topping the list, insiders say, is Garland.
He’s an obvious choice, having already completed the background checks from the FBI and the American Bar Association to be a Supreme Court nominee; that process can take up to four months.
Garland already serves on the powerful D.C. appeals court, and personally knows some of the other members of the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice John Roberts.
And while Republicans have refused to consider Garland’s nomination this year, saying the court vacancy should be filled by the next president, many have spoken highly of his qualifications, giving him a good chance at being confirmed.
Other top contenders for a Clinton appointment would be Sri Srinivasan, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Jane Kelly, a judge on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Obama White House reportedly considered both judges this year before the president nominated Garland.
Srinivasan would be the first Indian-American and Hindu to serve on the court, but his nomination could face resistance from the left due to his past work representing corporate clients.
While an attorney for O’Melveny & Myers, Srinivasan reportedly defended ExxonMobil and mining giant Rio Tinto against allegations of human rights abuses in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Paul Watford, an African American judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is also being mentioned as a potential Clinton nominee, along with Jacqueline Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American judge on the same court.
In a blog post after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, Tom Goldstein, the publisher of SCOTUSblog, called Watford the “most likely nominee.”
Not only was the Southern Californian recently vetted for his current position, Goldstein said the Senate confirmed him in 2012 by a vote of 61-34 — a filibuster-proof majority, though the balance of votes in the Senate will almost certainly change in 2017.
Insiders name Goodwin Liu, an Asian-American judge on the California Supreme Court as another possibility. Liu, whose nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was blocked by Republicans in 2010, is a former UC Berkeley Law School professor who has a history of advocating for equal rights.
Mariano Florentino Cuéllar, of the same court is considered in the mix, along with his wife Lucy Koh, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, who was recently nominated to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Koh is the first Asian American United States district court judge in the Northern District of California, and best-known for presiding over high-profile tech cases, including a patent feud between Apple and Samsung over design ideas for the iPhone and iPad.
Patricia Ann Millet is another D.C. Circuit court judge often mentioned by insiders. The former appellate lawyer, who worked for 11 years as an assistant in the Office of the Solicitor General, has argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court.
Rounding out the list of potential nominees are two names from Congress: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Corey Booker (D-N.J.).
Booker has a law degree from Yale Law School, while Klobuchar is a former prosecutor.
Conservatives have made the Supreme Court as a rallying cry for the election, fearing Clinton would nominate the most liberal candidate she could find.
“It’s that simple, a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court means your right to own a firearm is gone,” Chris Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, warned earlier this month.