Gov. Jennifer Granholm is far from a sure bet for a presidential appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter -- but she has a shot, court watchers say.
The governor -- a Harvard-educated lawyer and former state attorney general and federal prosecutor -- again finds herself the target of speculation that she may be headed to Washington, following the surprise announcement that the 69-year-old Souter will retire next month.
Granholm is not on everyone's short list, but her name was tossed around Friday in the national media as a potential replacement for the 18-year veteran liberal jurist. Granholm played down the reports in numerous interviews.
President Barack Obama said he would look for a replacement who has a "sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity." His candidate, he added, would be someone who respects the Constitution.
When Granholm was asked on MSNBC-TV whether she would consider a Supreme Court appointment, she said: "I've said repeatedly, I'm really focused on being governor of Michigan because we have such a crisis at this moment. I really intend to serve out my term."
One thing that might work against Granholm is the fact that she has never served as a judge. The two most recent justices without judicial background -- William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell -- were appointed 37 years ago.
At a stop in Auburn Hills on Friday afternoon, she said the Obama administration wants to pick someone who has been a judge for the seat on the nation's highest court.
Another negative could be that Granholm is not a natural-born citizen, having been born in Canada. The last justice who was a naturalized citizen was Felix Frankfurter, who was born in Austria and served on the court from 1939-62.
While history suggests her lack of judicial experience and her Canadian birth could count against her, some say Obama may buck recent trends with his pending appointment.
"If President Obama has two or three picks (in his time in office), I'd be surprised if he didn't break from that recent trend and pick someone without a judicial background," said Russell Wheeler, an expert on the Supreme Court at the Brookings Institution.
Richard Friedman, a law professor at the University of Michigan and expert on Supreme Court history, said Granholm would be a tempting choice for Obama because of her political and legal background, her relative youth (50) and gender.
Lawrence Dubin, a law professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, said Granholm fits with Obama's description of what he wants in a justice.
"He has said he wants people with worldly experience, rather than purely judicial experience," Dubin said. "This might be a new day. (Granholm) could be under serious consideration."
Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard University, said during an interview on CNN Friday morning: "President Obama may want to pick somebody young, perhaps somebody from politics ... a former governor." But he said he may be a little biased because Granholm is a former student of his.
While many names on lists that are circulating are women, Dershowitz said Obama is not obligated to choose a woman or a minority.