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Favorites of Left Don’t Make Obama’s Court List

Publication Date: 
May 25, 2009
New York Times
Peter Baker

Professor Pamela S. Karlan is mentioned and her remarks during Stanford Law School's 2009 graduation ceremony are quoted, Lecturer in Law Thomas Goldstein is quoted, and Professor and Former Dean Kathleen Sullivan is mentioned in a New York Times article that discusses potential nominees for the Supreme Court:

Pamela S. Karlan is a champion of gay rights, criminal defendants’ rights and voting rights. She is considered brilliant, outspoken and, in her own words, “sort of snarky.” To liberal supporters, she is an Antonin Scalia for the left.

But Ms. Karlan does not expect President Obama to appoint her to succeed Justice David H. Souter, who is retiring. “Would I like to be on the Supreme Court?” she asked in graduation remarks a couple of weeks ago at Stanford Law School, where she teaches. “You bet I would. But not enough to have trimmed my sails for half a lifetime.”

While there are clear political advantages to Mr. Obama if the perception is that he has avoided an ideological choice, Ms. Karlan’s absence from his list of finalists has frustrated part of the president’s base, which hungers for a full-throated, unapologetic liberal torchbearer to counter conservatives like Justice Scalia.


“It’s quite likely the left is not going to get what it wants,” said Thomas C. Goldstein, co-head of the Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and founder of Scotusblog, a well-read Web site. “If you talk about somebody who’s a true liberal, a very strong progressive and a visionary architect of the law and jurisprudence, then you’re talking about somebody like Pam Karlan at Stanford. And nobody is seriously talking about Pam Karlan.”

Other favorites of the left who do not appear to be on Mr. Obama’s short list are Kathleen M. Sullivan, who also teaches at Stanford, and Harold Hongju Koh, the dean of Yale Law School, whom the president has nominated to be the legal adviser at the State Department.