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Obama Considering Republican Nevada Governor for Supreme Court

  • Ken Bredemeier

The White House is vetting Republican Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, sources familiar with the process said Wednesday.

Sandoval met with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Monday while the governor was in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting.

A 52-year-old Mexican-American, Sandoval was appointed a judge by President Barack Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, before being elected governor in 2010.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval participates in the opening session of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Feb. 20, 2016.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval participates in the opening session of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Feb. 20, 2016.

While he is a Republican, Sandoval supports the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision of last year and backs abortion rights.

Senate Republican leaders have said they they will ignore Obama's choice, holding no traditional hearings on the nominee or votes. The Republican lawmakers said they would leave the appointment for the lifetime position up to the country's next president, whoever is elected in November and takes office in January as Obama's eight-year tenure ends.

'Rigorous intellect' sought

It's unclear how many people the White House is eyeing. But Wednesday, Obama called on Senate Republicans to "fulfill their constitutional duties" and consider a high court nominee this year. He also wrote a guest post on SCOTUSblog about the type of person he would want to fill Scalia's seat.

Obama wrote that he would name someone "eminently qualified" with an "independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials and a record of excellence and integrity."

He said he was looking for a candidate "without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand."

From left, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts attend a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court in Washington for late Justice Antonin Scalia, Feb. 19, 2016.

From left, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts attend a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court in Washington for late Justice Antonin Scalia, Feb. 19, 2016.

But Obama said some decisions a new justice makes "will necessarily" be shaped by that person's "own perspective, ethics and judgment."

When such perceptions come into play, Obama said, he wants a nominee who views the law "not only as an intellectual exercise, but also grasps the way it affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times. That, I believe, is an essential element for arriving at just decisions and fair outcomes."

Obama has filled two vacancies on the court with liberal nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and some Republicans say they are determined to not allow Obama to fill a third seat that would alter the court's ideological balance. But no one knows who a new president might name.

In the meantime, if the court divides 4-4 on a given decision, the lower-court ruling in the case would stand.

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