Two weeks ago, when the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice received requests for some background information on several potential nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, one of the names gave some senior advisers in the building pause: that of Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears.
Sears, an African-American, who will retire from her chief justice position in June, was well known among liberal activists and the civil rights industry for a friendship with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In fact, Thomas made headlines when he appeared and spoke at Sears’ swearing in several years ago, an event boycotted by some civil rights industry activists.
“This isn’t a potential nominee that anyone over here at Justice who has high hopes for this pick wants to see,” says one current DOJ official, who has previously done work on federal court nominations at Justice’s office of legislative affairs and office of legal policy. “When her name popped up, you could see people around here were nervous.” The result: a high-profile front-page story in the Washington Post yesterday focusing on Sears’ ties to Thomas. “The reporter might not have known it, but that piece just reeked of piece designed to get her crossed off the list.”
Thus far, speculation over Obama’s potential high court nomination has focused on women with Hispanic backgrounds, but according to White House staff and others, there is a much longer list being reviewed. “This administration is going to have more than one vacancy to fill on the court,” says one White House aide. “We’re looking at this as a good exercise to pull together information on a number of individuals who may be considered if not today, then down the road.”
Sears, though, says the DOJ source, clearly would be unacceptable to the far left and liberal judicial communities. “They want a reliable liberal, just as conservatives what a reliable strict constructionist. Sears is viewed with suspicion. My guess is that she would be an underwhelming selection, and people here wanted it known and expressed that she would not be viewed with the adulation other nominations might be.”
Republican House minority whip Eric Cantor is taking his lumps for the launch of brainchild, the National Council for a New America, a group that appears designed more to burnish his political aspirations — along with those of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour — than accomplish real policy or political work.
Cantor was most stung after last week’s launch of what he termed a national “listening tour,” when Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, announced at the same time her own “listening tour” as she mulls a run for the Senate in Louisiana.
“Apparently it’s true: great minds do think alike,” quipped a former colleague of Cantor who lost his seat last election cycle, he believes, for supporting the Bush bank bailout plan at Cantor’s request.