Sunday, May 9, 2010

SelectingThe Next Supreme Court Justice

President and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

President Barack Obama says he hopes to nominate a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens by the end of May. Justice Stevens announced his retirement on April 9, after 35 years on the high court. He is the longest-serving of the nine current justices, and at age 90 is the second-oldest justice ever. Although he was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford, Stevens has, in recent years, led the more liberal wing of the court.

The president is calling for a Senate confirmation vote before the lawmakers recess in August, so the new justice can join the nine-member court when its new session starts in October.

"My hope is that we are going to be able to get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed in time for the next session," said the president. "As Justice Stevens said, I think it is very important, particularly given the important cases that may be coming before the Supreme Court, that we get this process wrapped up," he said.

Mr. Obama met with the top Senate Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and the top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy, and the committee's leading Republican, Jeff Sessions, also talked with the president about his upcoming nomination. After the meeting, Senator Leahy said he wants to keep politics out of the confirmation process as much as possible.

"I am not looking for a nominee who is there for Republicans or Democrats. I want somebody who is there for the American people," said Leahy.

Susan Low Bloch, a professor of law at Washington's Georgetown University, expects opposition Republicans in the Senate to fight the nomination, whoever it may be. But she believes a nomination will be approved in a timely manner.

"I do not think the process will be quick, and I do not think it will be quiet, but yes, I do think that the person will be able to take his or her seat by the time the court convenes in October," she said.

The White House has not revealed the names of any potential nominees. If the confirmation process for the last nominee is any indication of things to come, one can expect a long, bitter debate on Justice Stevens’ successor.

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