The breakdown of top SCOTUS contenders

The Associated Press has a helpful article sketching the professional bios of each of the top contenders to replace Souter.

One thing to keep in mind when skimming these bios: Age. Obama would undoubtedly prefer to appoint a relatively young justice who can stay on the court for decades. President Bush did just that, tapping Roberts and Alito, both 50 when nominated. The liberals on the court are older than the conservatives, a situation Obama would like to have reversed in case the next President is a Republican.

Here are a few of the more often-mentioned names. Click here for the whole list.

Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

-Born in 1954 in the Bronx, N.Y. Nominated as a federal judge by President George H.W. Bush on November 27, 1991, and confirmed by the Senate on August 11, 1992. Nominated by President Bill Clinton to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 25, 1997, and confirmed by the Senate on October 2, 1998. Graduated from Yale Law School in 1979, and worked in private practice as a lawyer in New York City from 1984-1992 before joining the New York County District Attorney's Office, where she served as assistant district attorney from 1979-1984. She then returned to private practice in New York City from 1984-1992.

Kim McLane Wardlaw of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

-Born in 1954 in San Francisco. Nominated as a federal judge by President Bill Clinton on August 10, 1995, and confirmed by the Senate on December 22, 1995. Nominated to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Clinton on January 27, 1998, and confirmed by the Senate on July 31, 1998. Graduated from UCLA Law School in 1979 and worked in private practice as a lawyer in Los Angeles from 1980-1995. Worked for President Clinton's Justice Department transition team from 1992-1993 and for Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan's mayoral transition committee in 1993.

Diane Pamela Wood of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

-Born in 1950 in Plainfield, N.J. Nominated to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton on March 31, 1995, and confirmed by the Senate on June 30, 1995. Received a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1975. Clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun from 1976-1977. Worked as a lawyer adviser in the State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser from 1977-1978. Worked in private practice in Washington, D.C. from 1978-1980 before teaching at Georgetown University from 1980-1981. Worked as a professor at the University of Chicago from 1981-1995, where she also served as associate dean from 1989-1992. Worked at the Justice Department as special assistant to the associate attorney general from 1985-1987, and as the Antitrust Division's deputy assistant attorney general for international, appellate and policy from 1993-1995.

Elena Kagan, U.S. Solicitor General.

-Born in 1960 in New York City. Nominated for Solicitor General by President Barack Obama. Received a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1986. Worked as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from 1987-1988. Worked in private practice in Washington, D.C. from 1989-1991 and as professor at University of Chicago law school from 1991-1995. Associate counsel to President Bill Clinton 1995-1996, deputy assistant to Clinton for domestic policy and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council from 1997-1999. Nominated to the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1999 but never received a hearing from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Professor at Harvard Law School since 1999, and dean of the Harvard Law School since 2003.

Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School.

Born in 1955 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Received law degree from Harvard University in 1981. Worked as law professor at Harvard University from 1984-1993. Worked as law professor at Stanford University from 1993-1999. Served as dean of Stanford law school from 1999-2004. Works as law professor at Stanford University.

Cass Sunstein, University of Chicago law professor.

Born in 1954. Received law degree from Harvard University in 1978. Clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall 1979-1980. Worked in Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department 1980-1981. Worked as law professor at the University of Chicago from 1981-2008. Nominated by President Barack Obama recently to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.