Filling John Paul Stevens Supreme Court vacancy big test for Obama
Replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens depends largely on who President Obama nominates. But given Obama's political standing these days, confirmation by the Senate is unlikely to be quick and easy.
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Last year, by nominating then-Judge Sotomayor, he effectively checked off two boxes – a Hispanic and a woman. Obama was under intense pressure to name the court’s first Hispanic justice, and by finding a qualified woman, he addressed another imbalance. The retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006 had left Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the only woman on the court.Skip to next paragraph
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Ethnic and gender considerations
This time around, he could face pressure to name the high court’s first Asian. Korean-American Harold Koh, legal adviser of the State Department and former dean of Yale University law school, comes up as potential nominee. A Taiwanese-American, Goodwin Liu, was recently nominated to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but Republicans have criticized him for his liberal views. His confirmation process is being seen as a test case for Obama’s judicial picks, particularly someone conservatives see as an eventual possible Supreme Court choice.
For now, the most mentioned names belong to women. The top two are Solicitor General Elena Kagan and federal appellate Judge Diane Wood. Whether Obama feels the nine-member Supreme Court needs another woman to join the two already there remains an open question. Another oft-mentioned name, Merrick Garland, is a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit – and a white male.
But Friday was Justice Stevens’ day. After months of speculation, the longest-serving justice finally settled the retirement question by delivering a letter to the White House expressing his intent to retire at the end of this term, which ends in late June or early July.
Speaking Friday afternoon from the Rose Garden, Obama praised Stevens’ service.
“Justice Stevens has courageously served his country from the moment he enlisted the day before Pearl Harbor to his long and distinguished tenure on the Supreme Court,” the president said.
“During that tenure, he has stood as an impartial guardian of the law,” Obama said. “He has worn the judicial robe with honor and humility. He has applied the Constitution and the laws of the land with fidelity and restraint. He will soon turn 90 this month, but he leaves his position at the top of his game. His leadership will be sorely missed, and I just had an opportunity to speak with him and told him on behalf of a grateful nation, that I thanked him for his service.”