Justice Stevens confirms plan to retire this year

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has confirmed that he will retire this June, as court observers have anticipated for some time. According to the Washington Post,

Aides and Democrats close to the process named three people as likely front-runners for the job: Solicitor General Elena Kagan, whom Obama appointed as the first woman to hold the post, and two appellate court judges, Diane Wood of Chicago and Merrick Garland of Washington.

I’m relieved to know that the Senate will be able to confirm Stevens’ successor while Democrats still have a sizable majority. We are likely to lose 3-8 Senate seats this November.

Whomever Obama appoints will probably get a lecture from Senator Chuck Grassley during confirmation hearings this summer. With any luck the person will turn out not to be “aggressive” and “obnoxious.”

Any comments or predictions about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Chris Bowers makes the case for former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears.

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    I am getting a little weary that the POTUS will again appoint a somewhat centrist successor for Justice Stevens.  Sotomayer is a good justice,  but she is quite centrist.  The White House is still trying to be bipartisan and attempting to draw this country back together.  Its not working too well at this time.  I believe that in the elections, we may lose some seats and may gain others.  Once the population sees the advantage of HCR for THEM, how it will affect their families and neighbors,  we may not lose as many seats as we think.  And the Tea Baggers are going so far Right that I think the average Independent voter is going to be scared away from the Conservatives running.

    I really wish that Obama was farther to the left (of course, I would be hopeful for that).  And he did tell everyone exactly where he stood on a variety of subjects,  and he is still doing so.  But everyone ASSUMED he would then lean a bit farther to the left.  And he has stayed steadily in the center.  

    IIt will either go one way or the other (now THAT’s an intelligent thought haha).  There will either be a loss of seats in Congress due to the Conservatives bringing everyone together.  Or there will be a backlash towards the Dems due to fear of the radical right, and appreciation of the health care bill and what it will do for them.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

    They expect the new Justice to be a woman.  Hopefully she is a little left of center.  

    • Harold Koh seems more liberal

      and is supposedly on the short list. I agree with you, though, Obama will choose a centrist to replace Stevens. If he has a chance to replace any of the conservatives he will probably pick a center-right person rather than a liberal.

      There’s no one on the current court as liberal as Justices Marshall or Brennan. Bill Clinton chose corporate-friendly moderates in Breyer and Ginsburg. They are capable and not bad at all, but they are not liberals either.

      The only good thing about Obama being so conflict-avoidant is that it probably takes Cass Sunstein out of the running. From what I’ve read, he would be a bad choice.

  • It, of course, is all a matter of who you talk to

    For a conservative, Stevens is wildly liberal, and Roberts is center-right.

    For a liberal, Roberts is wildly conservative, and Stevens is center-left.

    For a regular middle of the road SCOTUS expert like Jeffrey Toobin, CJ Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito are conservative, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Stevens are liberal, and Kennedy is the middle swing vote.

    Everyone is trying to move the Overton window in their favor, of course, because that’s the nature of politics.  However, just because Redstate and Kos say that Stevens was a “far leftist” or a “centrist” does not make it so.  I’m not suggesting that I “know” their precise location, but I do know that Stevens was somewhere in between “center-left” and “wild liberal.”

    As for the replacement, I know two things.

    The nominee will NOT be male.  It’s just that simple.

    That takes out Koh and Merrick Garland.

    The nominee will NOT be white.  

    That takes out Kagan, Wood, and Karlan.

    That leaves us with a Hispanic, Asian, Native, or African American.  My guess is Leah Sears, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice.  

    • Koh

      I wouldn’t count out Koh yet. I think “first Asian justice” trumps “male” in this instance.

      • I could be wrong,

        but considering the 7-2 male to female ratio, I think a male justice, even an Asian male, is still way to hard to justify for Obama.  

        Even Bush “attempted” to nominate Harriet Miers.

        Also, consider Leah Sears.  I would say that “first African American female” trumps “first Asian male.”

        • Obama will probably get another chance

          if Ginsburg retires in the next couple of years, or if Obama gets re-elected. At that point I agree with you, he would definitely choose another woman.

          Koh would be great, from what I’ve read. I need to read up more on Sears.

          • Definitely

            I think Ginsburg will leave before the end of Obama’s first term. I’m honestly surprised that John Paul Stevens beat her to the punch.

            My guess is he’ll get at least one more than that if he gets a second term…probably Stephen Breyer.

            Or Scalia might kick the bucket. (Just saying…heavy guys like him, with stressful lives and Type A personalities are prone to problems at his age.)

            Also: if Obama knows that Ginsburg is on the way out, he might pass on Kagan this round. Kagan seems like a clear “heir apparent” to Ginsburg.

        • to be even more cynical

          The White House would probably like the optics of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III leading a band of white men attacking Sears during summer confirmation hearings.

          • That's why Sears would be a good choice

            I doubt Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III would be willing to press too hard against her.

            They weren’t able to press too hard with Sotomayor…. when you compare her nomination hearing to others.  It was much less controversial and more inevitable.

  • Religion might be a factor too

    If it’s ridiculous that there are only 2 women on the court, and that until Sotomayor, there were no Hispanic justices, it would be ridiculous to have a Supreme Court with no Protestant justices, since there are more Protestants than women in the United States.

    Oh…one more reason why it might not be Kagan, who seems to be the front-runner right now.  She’s not a favorite of liberals.  She might depress the Democratic base a bit.