Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 9, 2010

JOHN PAUL STEVENS TO RETIRE FROM SUPREME COURT.... He started sending pretty strong signals last week, and today, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will, in fact, retire.

Stevens said Friday he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July. He said he hopes his successor is confirmed "well in advance of the commencement of the court's next term."

According to NBC News, a senior administration official says the White House received Steven's retirement letter this morning. The president, traveling back from an overseas trip, was informed aboard Air Force One.

His announcement had been hinted at for months. It comes 11 days before his 90th birthday.

Stevens' departure from the high court will mark the end of an era: he is the last justice to have served in World War II, lived through Prohibition, and was around for the start of the Great Depression.

In terms of the Supreme Court's stark ideological divisions, it's unlikely that Stevens' retirement will change the makeup of the bench -- despite having been nominated by a Republican president (Ford), Stevens is one of the high court's most reliably liberal votes. President Obama, who Stevens praised in recent interviews, will almost certainly replace Stevens with another progressive voice, keeping the center-left bloc with four votes (joining Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor).

Obama is scheduled to address Stevens' announcement in the Rose Garden this afternoon, around 1:20 (ET)*. This will be the president's second opportunity to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, following last year's Sotomayor nomination. Several names of jurists have become the subject of D.C. scuttlebutt in recent weeks, and most of the attention has been focused on Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and appeals court judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland.

As recently as five days ago, Senate GOP leaders were already openly speculating about filibustering the president's unnamed nominee.

* updated

Steve Benen 11:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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Comments

Kagan--it just makes the most sense for several reasons.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 9, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and congrats to Stevens on an amazing career and life.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 9, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Will Stevens leave the Court on a date certain or pending confirmation of a successor ?

Posted by: Bryan C Kenendy on April 9, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

I understand why it would make sense in a world where a majority rules but I'm a bit concerned as to how this will work out for Dems.

This will be filibustered, no matter the nominee, and drag into the homestretch of elections. Recently, the Republicans have loved to get their base fired up with Marxist, Socialist, etc charges regardless of the reality. I see no reason for them to not filibuster and get this push into election time. They are not seeming to receive the pushback on the 'party of no' business so there is no disincentive.

I love ya JPS, but if you're at all worried about your legacy on the Court being undone, seems like an odd scenario to create.

Posted by: Phreak on April 9, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know what could be worse on this:

Obama's choice - which may not be the clear progressive that is needed to counter the equally clear conservatives that Bush placed on the Court via Alito and Roberts, or

Republican obstructionism? I fear that the latter may lead the former to choose 'someone that is in the (never-never land of) "Center."'

Posted by: terraformer on April 9, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

This is going to be interesting. In a very short time, the GOP has gone from a nominee not getting an 'up or down vote' as the end of the republic, to promising to filibuster a nominee before they are even named. I'm certain the media will cover this hypocrisy with all due seriousness by giving us Palin, Gingrich and Giuliani 24/7 for a month.

Posted by: JoeW on April 9, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Until an abortion case reaches the Supremes and the votes are tallied, no one really knows how Justice Sotomayor will vote. With Stevens, it was a given.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 9, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

President Obama, who Stevens praised in recent interviews, will almost certainly replace Stevens with another progressive voice, keeping the center-left bloc with four votes (joining Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor).

I hope this is true, but I'm not entirely assured of Obama's progressive leanings at this point. "Almost certainly" suggests Steve isn't, either.

Posted by: Gaia on April 9, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Nominate Patrick Leahy - United States Senator for Vermont. That way the "Other Side of the Aisle" is rendered impotent.

Posted by: DAY on April 9, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

GOP opposition to _any_ named possible candidate is not news, it's expected.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on April 9, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Watch for David Broder to call on Obama to be "bipartisan" and let Mitch McConnell chose the next nominee. After all, Obama aready got to name one justice.


Posted by: SteveT on April 9, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

I happen to think a lot of Sonia Sotomayor. Another nominee like her (and there are more of her caliber) will shut the Republicans down who, though they struggled to find even the barest crumbs of controversy on her, could provide no real reasons for keeping Sotomayor off the bench.

President Obama can pick 'em and I trust he'll find another good one.

Posted by: * on April 9, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

More obstructionism from the GOP can only hurt the GOP, good timing for more of their nonsense. I personally think Barack Obama should nominate Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman for the bench because of either's vast Constitutional expertise! /vomiting

Posted by: Trollop on April 9, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Al Gore

Posted by: Stevio on April 9, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

^^Wow, that would twist McConell's panties into a butt-bunch!

Posted by: Trollop on April 9, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

I'm young (ish), liberal, and have no particular record for the R's to shoot at. just sayin'.

Posted by: zeitgeist on April 9, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

"President Obama, who Stevens praised in recent interviews, will almost certainly replace Stevens with another progressive voice, keeping the center-left bloc with four votes (joining Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor).

. . .

Several names of jurists have become the subject of D.C. scuttlebutt in recent weeks, and most of the attention has been focused on Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and appeals court judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland."

Are Kagan, Wood or Garland really progressive? It doesn't seem so from what I've read. That's why I disagree with the statement "In terms of the Supreme Court's stark ideological divisions, it's unlikely that Stevens' retirement will change the makeup of the bench."

If one of those three are nominated and confirmed, then them makeup will shift to the right.

We need a real liberal/progressive on the bench.

Posted by: bdop4 on April 9, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"We need a real liberal/progressive on the bench."

No. Actually what we need is a clear majority of them. Which we won't get even if Obama doesn't try to placate the Republicans by nominating a "centerist."

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

Posted by: The New York Crank on April 9, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Senate GOP leaders were already openly speculating about filibustering the president's unnamed nominee."

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. Republicans gotta obstruct when out of power and insist on up-or-down votes when in the majority.

I'm trying to supress my natural anguish and despair and learn to trust. Obama did good with VP, Sec. of State, and his first Supreme Court pick. Remember, "Everybody chill the **** out, I got this."

Posted by: stinger on April 9, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Obama could do what Dick Cheney did when "W" asked him to help choose a VP. Nominate himself.

Posted by: chrenson on April 9, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Are Kagan, Wood or Garland really progressive?

That's relative, I guess. Kagen or Wood would probably become second to Ginsburg in a ranking of the progressiveness of the Justices; Garland would more likely be like Breyer.

But most of the truly progressive Justices in the lifetimes of anyone around here were not seen that way at the time of nomination (Stevens, Brennan). The last Justice really known to be a progressive when named was Marshall (unless one counts Ginsburg, which I do but I've seen prior complaints around here that even she is a centrist). At the time, the circumstances surrounding Marshall were pretty unique.

Obama needs to nominate the most progressive person that, with good prepping, strategy, and expenditure of political capital, can be confirmed. My personal first choice, by far, would be Pamela Karlan at Stanford, but realistically I'm not sure she is confirmable. Harold Koh, Steven Carter, maybe Kagen are probably as far left as he can go and still get them confirmed.

An interesting choice would be Sheldon Whitehouse, who has shown himself to be a good fighter among Senate Dems, would likely have a confirmation advantage due to institutional issues, and who has a strong legal resume that would be different and diverse from those presently on the Court.

Posted by: zeitgeist on April 9, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to nominate myself for the job. Hell, I took bizness law in college. Mostly I just want to tear one of those rethug inquisitors like Cornyn a new asshole. Having a battle of wits with him would be like shooting and unarmed man.

Posted by: me4texas on April 9, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

If Elena Kagan's weak and lily-kneed oral argument in Citizens United is any indication of her judicial bent and decisiveness, I'd almost rather have another Scalia.

(Well, no, obviously not... but I listened to the broadcast oral arguments and knew how the court was going to come down right then. She was absolutely awful.)

Posted by: shantyhag on April 9, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

The Sotomayor confirmation proved that the GOP cannot keep their Senate caucus together to filibuster a SC nominee. They will say outrageous things; they will lie; they will start a filibuster; they will rile up their base, but they cannot sustain a filibuster on this issue. Let the Kabuki begin, but this one will be another win for Obama.

Posted by: tom in ma on April 9, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

The Obomination has a choice of two directions to go with the nominee:

1) Go partisan and select Billary Clinton as the nominee. It might even get the PUMAs to support him for reelection. It would, at least, keep her from running against him in 2012.

2) Go bipartisan and please Broeder. Let The Federalist Society select the nominee with veto power given to Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, and President McCain. This would probably assure that Obama could get 2 or 3 republican votes to overcome their filibuster.

Posted by: AmusedOldVet on April 9, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

i should add that my fear is that Obama -- not out of weakness but out of his almost eccentric level of commitment to a "Third Way" and to defying partisan labels -- will nominate someone all over the map like Cass Sunstein. For purely meritocratic reasons, Sunstein would be a fine choice, incredibly intellectually gifted, a great writer, and wildly intellectually curious. But far, far from a solid, predictable progressive to counterbalance the solidly, predictably hard-right Alito, Scalia, and Thomas.

Posted by: zeitgeist on April 9, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Nominate me - electrical engineer, lifetime appointments preferred.

In terms of starting date at the job, Scalia is up next (joined the SCOTUS in 1986) The trick is to get him to retire - any ideas?

Posted by: Ohioan on April 9, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Ohioan, @12:36

It doesn't have to be a retirement; there are alternatives. Scalia used to go out duck hunting with Cheney and he could again. I'd settle for that.

Posted by: exlibra on April 9, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Nominate Patrick Leahy -

except that he looks almost as old as Stevens.

I don't want any Obama nominee to be replaced in less than 20 years. As far as I'm concerned, he shouldn't be considering anyone over age 60 unless he's already replaced Scalia and Kennedy, and maybe Thomas just to be safe.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 9, 2010 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

The confirmation hearings will not be about Kagan or Wood or whoever is nominated-they will be about the rogue Roberts Court.

Posted by: bob h on April 9, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

If Hillary wasn't doing such a fine job at State, I'd love to see her nominated just to watch the wingnutosphere freak out.

And, I hope Justice Stevens enjoys his retirement. Thank you for your service to your country.

Posted by: short fuse on April 9, 2010 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

There is absolutely NOTHING that suggests that Obama "will almost certainly replace Stevens with another progressive voice" and in fact a tremendous body of evidence that Obama will nominate another moderate centrist.

Another moderate centrist like Sonia Sotomayor will radically shift the Supreme Court sharply to the right.

Though Obama's Corporate Insurance Salespeople will assuredly falsely sell a moderate centrist as some liberal panacea.

Liberals should either be gearing up for a fight with Obama NOW or readying themselves for an extreme disappointment later for Obama's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee.

Posted by: Annoyed on April 9, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, you fucking idiots had a 60 vote caucus in the Senate and traded it away for a weak and unpopular health care reform. Now Obama will have to nominate a Republican or Dixiecrat and move the Court even further to the right. Congratulations. We will live with this for decades.

Posted by: Anonymous on April 9, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

As a GWU alum, I say nominate Jonathan Turley, if only to infuriate the far right.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on April 9, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

"As recently as five days ago, Senate GOP leaders were already openly speculating about filibustering the president's unnamed nominee."

But fortunately we have the Gang of 14, so this will never occur.

Right? Right?

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 9, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Right wing libertarian Jonathan Turley is certainly more principled than most right wing libertarians, but he certainly would NOT infuriate the "far right".

But in our Orwellian ideological times, Obama's Corporate insurance salespeople are falsely trying to push Elena Kagan, who, while competent, received a standing ovation from the extreme right wing Federalist Society because of many of her (Kagan's) far right positions.

See: Kagan on indefinite detention of 'enemy combatants'. (Hint: Kagan's for the most regressive right wing interpretation of that power.)

Posted by: Annoyed on April 9, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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