The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday has already ignited an unanticipated political battle over who might fill his seat at the bench in the country’s highest court.
Though many Republican politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, publicly opposed the thought of President Obama appointing a justice prior to the end of his term, Obama made it clear in a statement Saturday night that he intends to fulfill his “constitutional responsibilities.”
So who will he appoint? Several names have been floated by various pundits and media outlets, and of those names, at least four have Chicago or Illinois ties.
63-year-old Merrick Garland, mentioned widely as a likely candidate for the role, is currently the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and grew up in north suburban Lincolnwood. Garland attending Niles West High School in Skokie before graduating with honors from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He was also considered for the Supreme Court in 2010 after the retirement of Justice Stevens.
Patricia Millett, 52, serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and has been named by the New York Times, Politico, CNN, among others, as a potential nominee. According to the New York Times, Millett earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before attending Harvard Law School.
Some sources say Senator Amy Klobuchar, 55, would be an unusual, but not unexpected pick for the bench. The confirmation process involves a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Klobuchar is a current member. She was elected to the Senate from Minnesota in 2006, serving as Hennepin County prosecutor prior to that. Her Chicago tie? She’s a graduate of the University of Chicago Law school, where Scalia taught from 1977 to 1982, leaving just prior to her arrival.
Another choice being discussed is 51-year-old Jane Kelly, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit out of Iowa since 2013. While her ties to Chicago and Illinois are not as strong, she did serve as a visiting instructor at the University of Illinois College of Law before moving to Iowa to work as an assistant public defender. Kelly graduated from Harvard Law in 1991 with President Obama, and former adviser David Axelrod is quoted in the New York Times as saying “I would favor sitting appellate judges like… Jane Kelly from the Eighth Circuit, who have cleared the Senate unanimously.”
While Axelrod also said “There will be many opinions on this, and a lot of good candidates,” with these potential nominees, there is a chance that the next Supreme Court justice could have Illinois ties.