Sunday, April 11, 2010

Justice Stevens to Retire From United States Supreme Court

By now you have surely heard that Justice John Paul Stevens, appointed to the Supreme Court in 1975 by President Gerald Ford, sent a letter to the White House on Friday morning announcing his intention to retire from the United States Supreme Court when it concludes its business over this upcoming summer. To read Justice Stevens' letter to the President, click this link (a short note, but still pretty neat to see): http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/us/20100409-JohnPaulStevens-Letter.pdf.

President Obama now has a rare opportunity to make back-to-back nominations to the Court. Whereas during the Reagan and Bush years, there were appointments of Justices with a decidedly conservative bent, it is anticipated by the commentators that President Obama will continue his efforts to create a Bench where the pendulum shifts to left of center.

In an oft-repeated quote issued during his campaign for the Presidency pertaining to the selection of judges, Obama stated, "We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I am going to be selecting my judges."

After Justice Stevens' announcement of his planned retirement, President Obama has been quoted as saying he would look for a candidate who possessed what he described as qualities similar to that of Justice Stevens: “an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people.”

According to the news articles, the President may be considering up to ten candidates, but that three have emerged as front-runners: Merrick B. Garland, 58, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., Elena Kagan, 49, the solicitor general and former Harvard Dean, and Diane P. Wood, 59, a federal appeals judge and former fellow law professor of President Obama at the University of Chicago.

Source: Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Gary Savage. "Stevens' Retirement is Political Test for Obama." New York Times article (4/10/10).

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