The pre-decision period will last a little longer. Administration officials and outside advisers say that President Obama and his judicial nominations team will take their time to vet potential nominees, acknowledging that a short list is already in place and that preliminary investigations have already begun. Some liberal interest group leaders have been told to expect a nomination announcement next week, but all signs, at this point, indicate that Obama will hold off until the end of month -- either right before, or the week after, the Memorial Day holiday.
Despite reports to the contrary, although the White House posseses some dossiers about potential candidates and can easily access the public financial disclosure statements from those who work for the government now, there has not been extensive "pre-vetting" for most of them. An exception is Elena Kagan, whose nomination to be solicitor general entailed a detailed background examination and an FBI clearance review.
Even with Kagan, however, the team still needs to comb through everything she's ever written and said, and it needs her cooperation to do so. Potential nominees tend to hire lawyers to help them with the vets, which include questionnaires, interviews, and an extensive time commitment.
For candidates like Sonia Sotomayor and Diane P. Wood, one would assume -- and I don't know this for sure so I'll just assume it -- that White House-detailed researchers have been dispatched to courthouses to obtain records that might not be online, that friends of the administration have been tasked with public statement and record searches, and that a whole round of consultations needs to take place
Before Obama chooses his nominee, he will almost certainly ask some Democratic heavyweights for their opinion on a broad range of nominees, just as his vice presidential search team did. You can count on the fact that the names that he or others bring up in these meetings will leak, and so these consultations will probably be the final step in the process.
Point is: Obama's team has a lot to do, and they're going to take their time.
They're constrained, of course, by time, too: in order to get a nominee in place by the fall, they've got to announce the person's identity before the beginning of the summer.