In recent decades, all new Supreme Court Justices have had a résumé that included work as an appellate judge and education at Harvard or Yale. But historically, this is an anomaly. Supreme Court judges have been appointed from a variety of backgrounds; they have included former governors, mayors and members of Congress. The pressure to diversify the court has been growing in recent years. As Vice President Joe Biden put it in 1997, "We have enough professors on the bench. I want someone who ran for dog catcher."
Obama has also voiced desire for more professional diversity, saying in 2009 that he "will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook." Perhaps as a result, Obama made a point in 2009 of interviewing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for the seat that Sonia Sotomayor eventually took. This time around, outside observers point to several other nonjudicial possibilities, including Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Attorney General Eric Holder, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Cass Sunstein, the administrator of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
It is hard to know how seriously any of these candidates are being considered, but there is little doubt that some of these names will appear on the short list, which the White House is likely to announce once a selection has been made. At the same time, the White House is continuing to examine the records of other judges, like retired Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears and Federal Appeals Court Judge Sidney Thomas of Montana.