Minow is close to Obama, whom she mentored when he was a law student at Harvard. Her father, former FCC Commissioner Newton Minow, gave Obama his first legal job, hiring him as a Chicago law firm summer associate. She has been a strong backer of the president, but she also speaks with her own voice: In an op-ed in March, she warned the government to make sure it is strictly accountable for stimulus spending. She told Slate last year that she didn't think Obama would necessarily favor moderate judicial picks over strongly liberal ones. Her own motto, from Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked, is "remember they're human beings," referring to the people who come before courts. It's akin to Obama's declaration that he is looking for a justice who thinks about "how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives." (Disclosure: Minow also clerked for the late Judge David Bazelon, who was Emily's grandfather.)
Teresa Wynn Roseborough, 51, is chief litigation counsel at MetLife Inc., leading a department of several dozen associates and supervising MetLife's litigation activities worldwide. Her specialties include constitutional law, class actions, telecommunications, and government regulation law, and she has argued before state and federal courts as well as at the Supreme Court. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill law school in 1986, where she edited the law review.
In addition to her solid footing in the outside-the-beltway business community, Roseborough also has strong D.C. connections. She worked as one of the principal attorneys for the Gore campaign during the 2000 presidential election and has served on the board directors of the American Constitution Society with now-Attorney General Eric Holder. Roseborough served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department from 1994-96 and as a law clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens in 1987. In 2003, she was named by American Lawyer magazine as one of the 45 highest-performing members of the private bar under the age of 45.
If President Obama means what he says about wanting Supreme Court justices with dramatically different work experiences and backgrounds, Roseborough's non-Ivy, nonjudicial background might be very compelling. That she is whip-smart and an African-American woman are icing on the cake.
David Tatel, 68, sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, long considered a sort of feeder court for the Supreme Court. Before joining the federal bench, Tatel worked in civil rights, including a stint as director of the National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He spearheaded programs to advance the rights of minorities and the poor through housing, voting rights, education, and employment litigation. He also served as director of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's Office for Civil Rights in the Carter administration. At 68, Tatel is widely believed to be too old to be elevated to the high court, and the fact that he is a white male will hardly be an asset this time around. If tapped for a SCOTUS seat, Tatel would become the first blind justice.
Notable cases: Tatel has written several opinions that have gone on to become blockbusters at the Supreme Court, including the important test of the Voting Rights Act that went before the Court last year. Tatel wrote 161 pages for a unanimous panel, upholding Section 5 of the act from a constitutional challenge. (The Supreme Court left the law largely intact.) In 2005, he voted to uphold a lower court's contempt decision against New York Times reporter Judith Miller, finding the grand jury's need for Miller's testimony outweighed the burden of disclosure on newsgathering. He wrote, "[J]ust as attorney-client communications 'made for the purpose of getting advice for the commission of a fraud or crime' serve no public interest and receive no privilege … neither should courts protect sources whose leaks harm national security while providing minimal benefit to public debate." In a landmark environmental case from 2005, Tatel's dissent was vindicated when the Supreme Court found that the EPA had failed to comply with the mandate of the Clean Air Act when it refused to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. In 2003, Tatel also dissented in an important war on terror case when he sided with those seeking, though a FOIA request, the names of post-9/11 detainees and their attorneys. Tatel, dissenting from the majority's opinion denying the request, wrote that the "court's uncritical deference to the government's vague, poorly explained arguments for withholding [information] as well as its willingness to fill in the factual and logical gaps in the government's case, eviscerates both FOIA itself and the principles of openness in government that FOIA embodies." (Disclosure: Tatel is an acquaintance of Dahlia Lithwick's.)
Lisa Madigan, 43, is a rising star in Illinois politics, a friend and former colleague of Barack Obama's from the Illinois state Senate, and the current attorney general of the state. The New York Times named her among a roster of down-the-road candidates for the first female president.
Consider this for Madigan's column: She successfully argued a case before the Supreme Court, the first attorney general to personally do so in 25 years—while seven months pregnant. The case, Illinois v. Caballes, gave police the authority to use drug-sniffing dogs on the outside of a stopped vehicle without a warrant or reason to suspect possession.
As Law.com notes, Madigan has other serious law-and-order bona fides, such as advocating for stricter supervision and registration of sex offenders, stronger methamphetamine laws, and scrutiny of the state's gaming industry. Prior to joining the state senate, Madigan specialized in employment law at a Chicago firm and as attorney general filed an amicus brief in support of the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy in Grutter v. Bollinger. She also challenged former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's commutation of 32 death row inmates on legal grounds—and lost—and came under fire for not aggressively investigating 25 cases relating to a Chicago police commander accused of torture.
Like Obama, Madigan has a background in community organizing. She also taught young women in South Africa during apartheid.
Harold Koh, 55, was the dean of Yale Law School until last year, when he stepped down after being tapped to serve as Hillary Clinton's chief legal adviser at the State Department. He is a star human rights litigator who forced the federal courts to grant rights to Haitian refugees held at Guantanamo Bay in the mid-1990s, though the Supreme Court eventually backed the government's policy of returning the refugees to Haiti without asylum hearings. From 1998 to 2001, Koh served as President Bill Clinton's assistant secretary of state for human rights.
Before joining the faculty at Yale, in the 1980s Koh practiced law at Covington & Burling and worked in the Reagan Justice Department, in the Office of Legal Counsel. He clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Harry Blackmun. His family came to the United States in the 1950s, when Koh's father was South Korea's minister to the United States, and chose to stay here after South Korea's 1961 coup.