Liberal SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens to step down mid-summer

Via Fox News:

President Obama called retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens an “impartial guardian of the law” who is leaving at the “top of his game,” as the president lays plans to quickly replace him.

Obama said the 89-year-old Stevens, the court’s oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, was a “brilliant” jurist who had “worn the judicial robe with honor and humility.”

Stevens was appointed by President Gerald Ford in the months after the Watergate scandal. His decision to step down from the high court bench gives Obama the second Supreme Court appointment of his term.

In a letter to the president, Stevens, the longest active serving member, said he has “concluded that it would be in the best interests of the court to have my successor appointed and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of the court’s next term” in October.

Stevens said he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July.

White House Counsel Bob Bauer informed Obama of Stevens’ decision by phone Friday morning as the president was flying back to Washington.

Obama said he will move quickly to name a nominee, as he did with Justice Sonia Sotomayor last year, and that he’ll look for someone with similar qualities — independent mind, fierce dedication to the rule of law.

Not so sure Justice Stevens (resignation letter here) is of an “independent mind,” considering he is considered the unofficial head of the “liberal wing” of the SCOTUS. Not only that, but Justice Stevens said this just last week:

Stevens, who turns 90 later this month, isn’t quite ready to say. “I can tell you that I love the job, and deciding whether to leave it is a very difficult decision,” he said in an interview. “But I want to make it in a way that’s best for the court.”

That would mean a decision sooner rather than later, in time for the nomination and confirmation process to be completed before a new term begins in October, he said. He acknowledged that he told a reporter early last month that he would decide in about 30 days, but he said with a laugh that he hoped “that wasn’t being treated as a statute of limitations.”

His departure will hand President Obama his second chance to leave a lasting mark on the nine-member Supreme Court. “I will surely do it while he’s still president,” Stevens said, who plans to leave either this year or next.

IOW, he sure as heck doesn’t want a Republican President nominating someone to replace him. Not only that, but he timed it before the possibility that the Senate could be decidedly more Republican after November. Hmmm … wonder why? Well, not really. It also makes you wonder which Justice will be next to retire before Obama’s first (and hopefully only) term is out. My $$ is on Ginsburg, whose health issues are well-known.

The WH is saying that it has a list of roughly ten candidates it has in mind to fill the upcoming SCOTUS vacancy. Republicans in the Senate, meanwhile, are already gearing up for the fight.

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