Bio: Born in New York City; University of Virginia law school; lawyer at Lewis and Roca; Arizona AG, governor and U.S. attorney. Since 2009, Napolitano has been secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
If picked: She’d be the only nonjudge on the bench. Strong elective-political experience. National security and immigration expertise. Argued before Court in 2002.
With no judicial record, Napolitano would present a unique challenge for both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The big issue with her would to what extent does anything she did in the political sector raise questions about her qualifications or merits as a judge,” said one committee observer. “That would be somewhat new terrain for a lot of people.”
Napolitano is not an unknown figure, having already been through the confirmation process to head Homeland Security. As a governor and state attorney general, she has a record on a number of controversial issues likely to be of more interest to Judiciary Committee members in a Supreme Court confirmation than in a confirmation for a cabinet position.
In official campaign statements when running for governor, Napolitano has said on abortion: “I am committed to women’s reproductive rights. Current protections must not be eroded.”
On the Second Amendment: “My position on the 2nd Amendment is simple: existing laws related to firearms and their possession are a sufficient framework by which to ensure the safety of all Arizonans.” Some gun rights proponents see her as having a “mixed” record on gun rights.
On the death penalty: “I support the death penalty.”
On same-sex marriage: Napolitano opposed same-sex marriage in Arizona and also the Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on states’ rights grounds.
Observers said Napolitano could respond to those who try to equate her views as a political official to what she would do as a justice with an argument very similar to that made by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. when he faced some Judiciary Committee criticism of his writings and positions as a lawyer in the Reagan Administration.
“She could say, `What I was doing in other jobs was serving clients so to speak and has no pertinence to what I would do as judge,’” a former committee staffer said. “She could say being a justice is a different job with different constitutional restraints.”