Diane Wood, 58, is a federal appeals court judge and has been considered a front-runner since Justice John Paul Stevens announced he would be stepping down. Wood met recently with President Obama in the Oval Office and also interviewed separately with Vice President Joe Biden. She also interviewed with the president last year when he was considering successors for Justice David Souter and was said to have impressed the president. Diane Wood is a former University of Chicago law professor, like Obama.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan also is a considered a top candidate. She attended a judicial conference Monday in Chicago, where the retiring Justice Stevens spoke. In April, Kagan kept a low profile and left it to White House surrogates to push back when a blogger made assertions about her personal life on a network Web site. Kagan, billed as the legal conference's main speaker, kept her remarks short and uncontroversial, praising Stevens for his "sterling integrity and unimpeachable honesty."
Merrick Garland,who serves on the U.S. appeals court in the District of Columbia circuit, is widely considered to be a top candidate. A former high-ranking Justice Department official, the 57-year-old Garland is considered unlikely to raise significant Republican opposition if he were chosen, but perhaps not great excitement from Obama's base.
Also said to be on the president's 'short list' is federal Judge Sidney Thomas. Obama's roughly one-hour session with Thomas, 56, was his first known interview for the upcoming vacancy on the court. . Thomas serves on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest of the nation's appellate courts. He was nominated to that job in July 1995 by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the Senate with no controversy. If selected and confirmed, Thomas would offer geographic diversity. The court is dominated by justices with ties to the Northeast and the Ivy League; Thomas' career is rooted in the West -- he lives in Billings, Mont., and earned his bachelor's degree from Montana State University and his law degree from the University of Montana. The San Francisco-based appeals court on which he serves has a liberal reputation, but attorneys who know Thomas describe him as independent and plainspoken. Biden also interviewed Thomas.
President Obama added Chicago federal appeals court Judge Ann Williams to his list of possible successors to Justice John Paul Stevens. Williams also attended the judicial conference with Justice Stevens in Chicago.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has talked herself up on cable TV at times and thrown cold water on her prospects on other occasions. On a public radio call-in show in March, Granholm was asked about the court vacancy, and said: "Would I be interested? Yes, I think it would be a great opportunity. But I just don't think it's going to happen. ... I'm not a judge and it would be a very unusual decision on the part of the president." Two weeks ago, she struck a different tone when asked about the idea of Obama selecting a nominee who's not a judge, saying, "It's a very wise move to consider experience that is not just from the judicial monastery." The governor added that she wasn't the only one in that category, pointing to Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano.
The subject of the Supreme Court vacancy came up recently while Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano who is also said to be a candidate, discussed the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday morning news shows. "I'm flattered" by the questions about the court, Napolitano said on "Fox News Sunday." "As you can tell from this interview, I think I'm focused on a few other issues right now."
Rumored candidate Harold Koh, a legal adviser to the State Department, has been quietly going about his business since his name emerged. But Koh has told others he doesn't believe he's really on the short list and has likened his situation to being a minor contender for an Academy Award. "It's a bit like being an Oscar nominee," he told one person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity about private White House deliberations. "You don't know what to make of it and you're not quite sure what to think."
President Obama is said to have considered Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow for the court.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)