In all the chat since  Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his retirement Friday, none dispute that President Obama is likely to add to the number of women on the Court. “Even Laura Bush was disappointed that her husband didn’t name a woman to replace Sandra Day O’Connor,” according Harvard Law’s Mark Tushnet. As the New York Times points out, there’s no shortage of stellar jurists, sharp legal experts and deep thinkers for the president to choose from. A few of the most-mentioned candidates are below, all of whom would bring with them the maturity of their years, as well as the “empathy” Obama spoke of on Saturday.

  • Sonia Sotomayor‘s name has been in the mix so long that Esquire profiled her last fall as Most Likely To Be Named Justice. “Because Sotomayor has a reputation for staying behind the scenes and sits on a federal bench known for its centrism, it’s likely that she would be able to garner a two-thirds majority in the Senate,” the magazine pointed out, adding that Sotomayor—appointed to the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush and best-known for siding with labor in the Major League Baseball strike of 1999—”has often shown suspicion of bloated government and corporate power” and “has offered a reinterpretation of copyright law, ruled in favor of public access to private information.” The Huffington Post’s Rachel Weiner adds that when appointed in 1992, Judge Sotomayer told the New York Times that her inspiration for a courtoom career came after watching an episode of Perry Mason: “I thought, what a wonderful occupation to have…. And I made the quantum leap: If that was the prosecutor’s job, then the guy who made the decision to dismiss the case was the judge. That was what I was going to be.”
  • Diane P. Wood‘s familiarity with the Court began with the best, when she clerked for the great Justice Harry Blackmun. Since joining the nation’s conservative Seventh Circuit 14 years ago, Wood “often finds herself the lonely dissenter on three-judge panels, arguing that atheists should be able to challenge the mostly-Christian prayers Indiana legislators use to open their sessions, that a gay Wisconsin teacher should be able to sue for alleged discrimination, that a Jewish condo dweller should be able to sue for discrimination when the building makes her take down her mezuzah, or that Indiana voters should not have to show ID to vote,” notes the Chicago Tribune.
  • Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School, founded  the university’s Constitutional Law Center in 1999, three  years before the government’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11 began to raise a host of unexpected constitutional questions. If appointed, Sullivan (like Sotomayor) would also make history as the first openly gay Justice. Her legal interests range widely in her private practice, where (according to her Stanford biography) Sullivan has represented “a diverse client list, from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell to the City of Honolulu, ABC Television, Hearst Publications, the San Francisco Chronicle in the BALCO case and Siebel Systems.”

We hope you’ll chime in with your own suggestions. (We’ll refrain, ourselves, from suggesting Judith Kaye, Gloria Steinem or Wanda Sykes, though a girl can dream.)

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