Home National Politics Thank You John Paul Stevens; Who Will Obama Pick to Succeed Him?

Thank You John Paul Stevens; Who Will Obama Pick to Succeed Him?


A bit earlier this morning, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will retirement, effective in June 2010. First off, I just want to say “thank you” to Justice Stevens for 35 years of service on the Court, plus of course his service to our country in World War II. As Adam B at Daily Kos points out, Stevens’ service began the day before Pearl Harbor, at the age of 21, when “he enlisted in the Navy and joined its intelligence service, earning a Bronze Star for his cryptography work which helped break the Japanese codes”). Now, at age 90 (in less than 2 weeks), I thank Justice Stevens and wish him a happy retirement!

With Stevens’ retirement, President Obama gets his second opportunity (after Sonia Sotamoyor) to replace a Supreme Court justice. A couple of points on that.

First this is more than enough reason for all of us to be happy that we elected Obama, not John McCain, in November 2008.  If McCain had won, he would have had the chance to tip the balance of the Supreme Court in a conservative direction for a generation or more to come, and that would have been a disaster.  

Second, this is a chance for President Obama to appoint a strong advocate for progressive values – environmental protection, human rights, valuing people over corporations, promoting the “general welfare,” defending our freedoms and our responsibilities under the Constitution, etc.

Although appointed by Republican Gerald Ford, Stevens has generally been considered the most liberal justice on the Court. Now, President Obama has a chance to replace him with a young version of…John Paul Stevens! I urge President Obama to make an inspired choice that we can all be proud of for decades to come!

P.S. Names of potential nominees I’ve seen bandied about so far include solicitor general Elena Kagan, Judge Diane Wood (7th Circuit Court) and Judge Merrick Garland (D.C. Circuit Court). Both Kagan and Wood reportedly were interviewed by President Obama last spring before he decided to nominate Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: On Facebook, Sen. Donald McEachin raise an interesting possibility.

It’s too bad that Gov. Kaine took the job as DNC chair. He would be an awsome Supreme Court Justice…Before anyone gets that twisted, I think Gov Kaine is an excellent DNC chair. His legacy as a Supreme Court Justice would be enduring.

Kaine is 52, so certainly not too old to be nominated to the Supreme Court. He’s also very close with Barack Obama. I wonder if this is a serious possibility.

  • Randy Klear

    1. Age – This is a lifetime appointment. Younger nominees are in a position to influence the course of American justice for decades. Republicans get this better than we do. The lsat two nominees, Sotomayor and Alito, were both 55 when sworn in. The GOP hasn’t nominated anyone older than 55 since Nixon picked Lewis Powell and Harry Blackmun; Democrats haven’t picked anyone younger than 55 since Kennedy appointed Byron White and Arthur Goldberg.

    If John Roberts is active to the same age as Stevens, he will be Chief Justice until 2045. This is something we need to take seriously.

    2. Breadth of experience – for the last 30-odd years there has been an increasing tendency to promote justices exclusively from the Federal circuit courts, picking people with lifetime focus on appellate law. Sotomayor is the only current justice who has actually been a trial judge or prosecutor; there are no criminal defense lawyers on the Court. There have also been no politicians since Sandra O’Connor left. The result, IMHO, has been a fractiousness and ivory-tower self-righteousness unparalleled in the Court’s history.

    3. Religion – while there should never be any kind of religious test, it’s worth noting that Stevens is the only Protestant on the current Court. We could actually end up leaving the country’s majority religious group unrepresented.

  • Paradox13VA

    I love the idea of appointing Kaine, but then again, I always thought that given his background and passion Sen. Deeds would make a great Justice.

  • I would have no issue with Kagan’s appointment.  But just as Randy brought up that Stevens is the last protestant Christian on the court (something that gives me pause, actually), I would also like to toss into the discussion that he is the last veteran.  Given that issues of war doctrine are likely to become increasingly important on the courts docket in the near future, having a voice with some of that experience could prove helpful.  

  • tx2vadem

    Another boring Senate confirmation to suck all of the air out the room.  Where the nominee says nothing and the media pours over it incessantly for days.  And another opportunity for Senators to hear themselves talk.  Good times!

    I’d go for Diane Wood.  But for no other reasons than she is UT grad, she grew up in Houston, and her father was an accountant for Exxon.

    To some of the other comments, why does it matter what religious affiliation they have?  I don’t see the relevance to the job.