Obama considering Indiana native for U.S. Supreme Court

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President Barack Obama is considering a woman who was born and raised in Indiana to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a person familiar with the matter said.

Jane L. Kelly, a federal appeals court judge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, would be the third woman Obama has nominated for the high court.

Kelly, 51, grew up in Greencastle. Her parents were Richard Kelly, a DePauw University psychology professor, and Judith Kelly, a part-time DePauw instructor.

Naming Kelly would escalate political pressure on Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who spoke fondly of Kelly in 2013 before the Senate voted 96-0 to confirm her for the Court of Appeals.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting background interviews for Kelly’s potential nomination, a person familiar with the process said. The person asked not to be identified because the White House has not disclosed details of Obama’s deliberations.

Grassley and other Republicans on his committee have vowed they will hold no hearings on any Obama nominee, saying the next president should fill the vacancy created by Scalia’s Feb. 13 death.

In a 2013 speech, he called Kelly "well regarded in my home state of Iowa" and quoted a retired appeals court judge for whom she clerked, David Hansen, who said "she is a forthright woman of high integrity and honest character" with an "exceptionally keen intellect."

Grassley said Kelly’s easy confirmation to the appeals court has no bearing on her possible nomination for the Supreme Court. He suggested she could be considered for the court if Democrats Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders win the presidency.

"I supported her for the 8th Circuit, but as I’ve said it’s the principle not the person, and if Clinton or Sanders is elected, she may be on the short list,” Grassley said in an e-mailed statement. “Supreme Court scrutiny is some of the toughest there is. Just look at Robert Bork, who was also unanimously confirmed for a circuit court seat.”

The Senate rejected Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987, 42-58, after a combative debate.

The White House declined to comment on Kelly’s consideration. The New York Times reported earlier that the White House was vetting Kelly for the court.

Kelly, who was born in 1964, graduated from Greencastle High School in 1983 as co-valedictorian. She graduated summa cum laude from Duke University in 1987 with a bachelor of arts degree.

In 1991, she graduated from Harvard Law School, where she was a classmate of Obama’s. She was a college professor and federal public defender in Cedar Rapids before joining the appeals court.

The White House may be considering more than one potential nominee to the court. Vetting often begins before the president settles on a final choice.

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