Ex-colleague: Obama will play it safe with court pick

Geoffrey Stone says the next Supreme Court nominee's confirmation will be easy -- but for the wrong reasons

Published April 9, 2010 9:01PM (EDT)

The University of Chicago law professor who once invited Barack Obama to teach there believes the president will shy away from selecting a Supreme Court nominee who will provoke a major fight with the right.

Geoffrey Stone told Salon that whomever Obama selects to replace John Paul Stevens, he or she won't be as far to the left as the court's conservative wing is to the right. He predicted that Republicans will use the nomination as a "wedge issue" and attempt "to intimidate the White House away from appointing anyone who would be anything like a Roberts or an Alito except on the liberal side." And he thinks they'll succeed.

"I don't see the Obama Administration at the moment wanting to take on quite that much of a fight, which is, I think, unfortunate… I think it matters a lot that there's no justice on the Supreme Court today who's a liberal and who represents that voice in the institution. But I'd be surprised if the administration decided to take that on. So… my guess is that they will appoint someone like Kagan, Wood, and Garland who will, like Sotomoyor, will generate some Republican opposition -- which is kind of silly -- but they'll get confirmed, in the end, without much difficulty."

Stone doesn't have an issue with any of the three big names -- Elena Kagan, Diane Wood and Merrick Garland -- that are being bandied about.  "They're all moderate progressive lawyers with very distinguished careers that have records that there are impeccable and any of whom I think would be a fine choice.," he told Salon.  Each,he noted, would hold the same ideological place that Justice Stevens and Justice David Souter had on the court -- "moderate with a progressive tilt."

By Emily Holleman

Emily Holleman is the editor of Open Salon.

MORE FROM Emily Holleman

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Barack Obama Elena Kagan Obama's Supreme Court Nomination Supreme Court War Room