WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's search to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter should extend beyond the current roster of federal judges, senators from both political parties said Sunday.
"I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings when Obama makes his nomination.
Noting that all nine justices came directly from the federal appeals court, senators on the committee said someone with a wider breadth of experience would be a plus.
"I would like to see, certainly, more women on the court. … We should have more minorities," Leahy said, adding he expects the next justice to be confirmed by the court's new term in October.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he hopes Obama will choose someone of "great dimension."
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a committee member who last week switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, suggested someone in the mold of a statesman or stateswoman, and said he could imagine a nominee who was not a lawyer, if that person had the right credentials.
Obama said Friday he would nominate a person who combines "empathy and understanding" with an impeccable legal background "who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives."