After I read the last pre-announcement news coverage (especially this item in the Times) this morning and thought a bit more about Obama’s proclivities I came to expectation that the pick to replace Souter would be either Judge Sotomayor or Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Frankly, I had guessed and was hoping that it would more likely be Kagan –during her career in academia she gained a reputation for being relatively fair toward those on the right—but Sotomayor was always a decent possibility for fairly obvious reasons. Although we’re hearing a lot about some foolish things that Sotomayor has said in the past, it seems a fairly safe bet that her confirmation process will proceed fairly smoothly. Assuming that no serious ethical issues emerge (and that she doesn’t repeat her “I’m an inherently better judge than a white male could be” line in front of the Senate, which she won’t) there won’t be any serious effort to filibuster her approval.
So, the first Supreme Court Justice placed on the Court by Obama will be a pick that satisfies demands of two very important interest groups in the Democratic coalition, will take Souter’s place as reliable member of the “progressive” block on the Court, and won’t draw as much confirmation fire as a full-throated, no separation-between-law-and policy jurist would have. An entirely predicable but fairly safe political move, just like President Obama likes em.