With Justice Stevens' Retirement, The U.S. Supreme Court, It Is A Changin'

BlogHer Original Post

Honeybeast's post, "Liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to Retire: Will His Replacement Be a Woman?" shares the important news and background about the almost 90-year-old's decision to leave the High Court after this term ends. Although his age seemed to lend itself to rumormongering about the day when this would happen, apparently even Justice Stevens' daughter was surprised:


U.S. Supreme Court Justices Pose For Group Photo

I [CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears] was having an informal chat with Stevens' daughter Susan Mullen, a real estate lawyer in the Washington area, on Friday morning. We were talking about family, and her father's judicial legacy. Two minutes after our conversation ended at her law office, the Supreme Court press office called me to say that the 89-year-old Stevens had just announced his intention to step aside. I quickly reached Mullen on the phone and relayed the news, wondering whether she would have her best poker face on during our conversation -- knowing but not saying.

"He what?" Mullen said, her voice rising. "Wait a minute, did you just say he just announced it?" The shock in her voice told me she had no idea.

No coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court is complete with references to the most excellent Scotusblog. In addition to finding a great roundup of MSM coverage and a timeline for succession via the U.S. Senate's confirmation, you can also find Stevens' letter of resignation and statements by the other justices, plus former Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter, about the retirement. They all will make you smile as they recall his kindness and his intelligence. Here's my favorite -- see if you can guess which justice wrote it:

For decades John Stevens did more than follow standards of judicial excellence. He set them. He insists on the mastery of every case, clarity in thought and expression, courtesy to colleagues and counsel, and, above all, unquestioned independence and integrity. He demonstrates that to fulfill its role the judiciary must remain capable of attracting to its ranks those lawyers who are preeminent in the profession. His love for this Nation is evident from his distinguished service in World War II, his years at the bar, and his career as a jurist. It is a historic privilege for me to have John Stevens as an admired, splendid colleague, and devoted, wonderful friend.

(Go here for the answer and statements by all nine justices.)

The title of Honeybeast's post also broaches what seems to have become an obvious and easy line of speculation: to what extent will President Barack Obama's second appointment to the Court, in a presidency that isn't even half over yet, reflect identity politics?

Black Political Buzz gives a rundown of the four names most commonly circulated possibilities while Huffington Post expands the group to nine total (with two men and one woman, but all white):

Elena Kagan, U.S. Department of Justice, Solicitor General

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Diane Wood, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

Merrick Garland, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit

Pamela Karlan, Stanford Law School, Professor of Public Interest Law; Co-Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

Kathleen Sullivan, Stanford Law School, Stanley Morrison Professor of Law and Former Dean

Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator, Minnesota

Jennifer Granholm, Governor, Michigan

Cass Sunstein, Administrator, U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

And, in a rather prescient post from two days ago, at the blog Womenstake, the National Women's Law Center highlights how, "Retired Justice O’Connor Says: "We Can Do Better."

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court, recently spoke to students and reporters at New York University Law School on a variety of topics. Among other things, she recommended more diversity on this nation’s highest court. For example, she said she thought that there should be greater diversity of legal experience, saying: "I'm a judge. I like judges. But we don't need them all on the court. And we need people of different backgrounds."

The former justice also said that she thought that there should be more women on the Court. She noted that Canada has four women on its nine-judge high court, including a female chief justice. "Now what's the matter with us? You know, we can do better," O'Connor said.

As much as I have come to enthusiastically admire and revere former Justice O'Connor, I still can never quite get over just how vocal and assertive she has become since retiring from the bench in 2005 when it comes to gender parity, and in particular, an interest in there being more women on the bench at all levels.

So, is she alone in this push for a woman -- for women? Identity politics and judicial appointments -- do you think they go together? Why or why not? Where is the remainder of what we think of as diversity that the Court could and should reflect?

More resources:

Thinking about "litmus test" for this next appointment? Check out the comments in pro-life blogger Jill Stanek's post as well as NARAL Pro-Choice America's statement

Townhall.com has a very nice round-up of reactions from across the ideological spectrum

And a deeper dive into "How Replacing Justice John Paul Stevens Could Get Interesting" from Swampland

 

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