updated 4/30/2010 8:08:18 PM ET 2010-05-01T00:08:18

President Barack Obama has accelerated the search for his next Supreme Court nominee by interviewing candidates, including federal judges Merrick Garland and Sidney Thomas, according to a person with knowledge of the conversations.

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Obama's roughly one-hour session with Thomas on Thursday was his first known interview for the upcoming vacancy on the court. Obama also met personally with Garland in recent days, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Obama's private deliberations.

Newsweek reported that Obama interviewed another candidate, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, on Friday at the White House. Two senior White House officials confirmed Kagan's visit to the news magazine.

The sessions are part of a series of conversations Obama is having with candidates in person or by phone. Details on those are not yet known.

But Obama is personally vetting his list of about 10 candidates, and the time frame for his announcement appears to be quickening.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said it could come in "the next little bit of time" but ruled out this week.

Obama is choosing a nominee to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced his upcoming retirement 21 days ago. By comparison, Obama spent 25 days evaluating candidates last year before nominating judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace another justice who retired from the court, David Souter.

Garland, who serves on the U.S. appeals court in the District of Columbia circuit, is widely considered to be a top candidate. A former high-ranking Justice Department official, the 57-year-old Garland is considered unlikely to raise significant Republican opposition if he were chosen, but perhaps not great excitement from Obama's base.

Meanwhile, the personal time Obama devoted to Thomas suggests that the federal judge, well respected within legal circles but hardly a familiar name in Washington, is under a higher level of consideration by the president. Biden also interviewed Thomas at the White House on Thursday.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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