The many profiles of soon-to-be-retiring justice John Paul Stevens, featuring rare, on the record interviews, are
trial balloons. The man is likely to retire by the end of the month.
Since he informally sent this signal to the White House late last year
by hiring one clerk, the White House's informal team of Supreme Court
mavens (Dan Pfeiffer, counsel Bob Bauer, vice presidential chief of
staff Ron Klain) has been actively, though quietly, preparing for the
Whether that includes the leaking of a list of names of BusinessWeek -- Diane Wood, Merrick Garland, Elena Kagan -- I don't know. No one has leaked a list of names to me, although it makes sense that Obama would consider the same people he considered when the last spot opened last year.
Obama made sure that Garland was vetted, and interviewed both Kagan and Wood last year, but he had his heart set on Sonia Sotomayor from the beginning, and used the vetting process as a way of testing his own heart against the thoughts and feelings of his advisers. The legal cognoscenti believes that Kagan, the solicitor general, has the inside track, with some folks swearing that Obama has already decided on her, and that he'll simply go through the motions again. It's not unreasonable to assume that Obama had his SCOTUS picks mapped out from the beginning of his presidency: the guy is a student of the Court, and he has a very particular theory of the types of justices that would best ensure that his vision for the court is appropriately articulated.