Congressional Black Caucus to meet, plot its strategy for Supreme Court nod

The Congressional Black Caucus plans to meet this week to
plot its strategy for the upcoming Supreme Court nomination.

Caucus chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has urged
President Barack Obama to consider a minority or woman candidate to replace the
retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. In a statement earlier this month, Lee said
it was “essential that President Obama consider gender and ethnic diversity on
the high court in an increasingly diverse America.” At an appropriations hearing
last week, Lee also tangled with Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s sole
African-American jurist, over the lack of diversity among its clerks.

{mosads}Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is leading the caucus’s
approach to judicial nominations. She told The Hill that she would recommend
that the caucus “take no position on a specific name yet.” She added, however,
that “the caucus should be concerned if we get a nominee that appears to be
considerably less progressive than the retiring Justice Stevens.”

The caucus appears to be adopting a lower profile in the
selection process after a number of members floated the name of one of their
own, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), last year for the seat that ultimately went to
Sonia Sotomayor.

Still, several members said they would be watching the
process closely.

“We have more than a passing concern,” Rep. Charlie Rangel
(D-N.Y.) told The Hill, while adding that he was not pushing a specific

Just one of the 10 or so candidates that Obama is believed
to be considering is African-American: Leah Ward Sears, the former chief
justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.

Although Sears’s name escaped Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)
in an interview, the California congresswoman referred to her as a promising
contender. “An African-American woman would be a welcome addition to the
Supreme Court,” Waters said. Sears, she said, “appears to be competent and
prepared to serve.”

Sears, 54, served as the top judge in Georgia from 2005 to
2009 before returning to private practice in Atlanta. She was the first woman
to serve on the court when she was first appointed in 1992. Her friendship with
the conservative Thomas, another Georgia native, could help win over
Republicans in a Senate confirmation battle, although it could also rankle

Norton emphasized that the CBC does not only endorse African-American nominees. She said Sears was someone who should be given a close look.
The three most frequently mentioned front-runners are Solicitor General Elena
Kagan, Judge Diane Wood and Judge Merrick Garland.

“I don’t see anyone on there who’s unacceptable,” Norton
said, reflecting the view of several House liberals who have praised the list
of candidates circulating around Washington.

Garland, a member of the Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Circuit, is considered the most centrist of the leading names and a potential
nominee who would draw little resistance from conservatives. Norton said he
would not be her personal choice, but noted that she was not speaking for the
caucus. She said there were a few names “that are concerning to me” on the
wider list that Obama is said to be considering, but she declined to cite them
before briefing the caucus.

Tags Barack Obama Bobby Scott

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