Why Elections Matter: Supreme Court Justice David Souter to Retire

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Rampant speculation in recent weeks that Supreme Court Justice David Souter was contemplating retiring has now been confirmed. Obama Announces Justice Souter Is Retiring:

President Obama announced this afternoon that Justice David H. Souter, the Republican-appointed New England jurist who has become a reliable member of the liberal bloc on the Supreme Court, is retiring and said he will nominate a replacement "who shares my respect for constitutional values."

All I can say is "thank God that John McCain is not president!" This is why elections matter and have consequences.

The Washington Post today published its speculative "short list" of potential nominees (as opposed to the actual White House short list). Replacement Speculation Begins I am 99% certain that President Obama will nominate a female jurist to the Supreme Court to join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the only women on the Supreme Court. Among the names most often mentioned as possibilities, in no particular order:

Judge Sonia Sotomayor (born 1954), U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Sotomayor was nominated to the bench by President George H.W. Bush in a deal with New York senators in 1991 and elevated to the appeals court in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. She could become the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court. Conservatives have raised questions about her role in upholding a decision by the city of New Haven, Conn., to throw out a firefighter promotions test because no African Americans qualified. The case is now before the Supreme Court.

Judge Diane Wood (born 1950), U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Wood worked at the antitrust division of the Justice Department during the Clinton administration, and she was nominated to the appeals court by Clinton in 1995. She knows Obama from her days as a professor at the University of Chicago law school, where he also taught. Wood, who will turn 60 next year, is the oldest of the candidates frequently mentioned for the court, where the trend has been toward younger justices who would serve for years in the lifetime appointment.

Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (born 1954), U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Wardlaw worked for the Clinton Justice Department transition team and was nominated by Clinton as a federal judge in 1995, then elevated to the appeals court in 1998. She is a liberal judge on the nation's most liberal appeals court, and she also had a role in a case now before the Supreme Court. She wrote the appeals court decision that said Arizona school officials violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old middle school student who was strip-searched in an unsuccessful effort to find drugs.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan (born 1960). Kagan was confirmed by the Senate to her new job in March on a 61-31 vote and has yet to argue a case at the court. Her confirmation process was more difficult than some had predicted, as Republican senators accused her of avoiding their questions. In the background was the thought that Kagan might be Obama's first nominee to the court. She is the former dean of the Harvard Law School, worked in the Clinton administration and worked with Obama, although not closely, at the University of Chicago.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears (born 1955). Sears was appointed by then-governor Zell Miller in 1992 and later became the first woman elected in a contested statewide race there. In 2005, she became chief justice, and in the process, became the first African-American woman in the nation to head a state supreme court. Although her current term runs until the end of 2010, Sears has announced she will step down from the job at the end of June.

Kathleen Sullivan (born 1955). Sullivan is a constitutional scholar and former dean of Stanford Law School who has been an active advocate for abortion rights and gay rights. She more recently has represented business interests before the court and remains director of Stanford's Constitutional Law Center.

I tend to agree with the analysis of Mark Nickolas at politicalbase.com Souter To Retire From Supreme Court, All Eyes On Sonia Sotomayor:

[T]he prevailing belief right now is that Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor is Obama's most likely pick. She's considered a very safe choice (President George H.W. Bush appointed her to the bench in 1991, Clinton elevated her to appellate judge in 1997). She is the first Puerto Rican woman ever to serve as a U.S. appellate judge and would be the first Latina on the Supreme Court.

Esquire had a piece about Sotomayor earlier this year:

If Obama becomes president, his first nominee to the Supreme Court will likely be Sonia Sotomayor. As a Hispanic woman with 16 years of court experience, Sotomayor would slay two of the court's lack-of-diversity birds with one swift stone. "These are criteria that matter these days. Even Laura Bush was disappointed that her husband didn't name a woman to replace Sandra Day O'Connor," says Mark Tushnet, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard. And because Sotomayor has a reputation for staying behind the scenes and sits on a federal bench known for its centrism, it's likely that she would be able to garner a two-thirds majority in the Senate, even if the Democrats only control an estimated 55 or so seats. Plus there's an insurance measure if the nomination gets too politicized publicly: Sotomayor was appointed to the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush. Says Tushnet, "If you're a Democratic strategist, you can gin up ads that say, 'She was good enough for George H. W. Bush. Why isn't she good enough for Mitch McConnell?' "

In her rulings, Sotomayor has often shown suspicion of bloated government and corporate power. She's offered a reinterpretation of copyright law, ruled in favor of public access to private information, and in her most famous decision, sided with labor in the Major League Baseball strike of 1995. More than anything else, she is seen as a realist. With a likely 20 years ahead on the bench, she'll have plenty of time to impart her realist philosophy.

The only certaintly in life is that the right-wing will viciously attack whomever President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court. In fact, the right-wing smear machine is already in full gear on the airwaves today attacking the list of speculative nominees (gratuitous smearing) even before Obama has had the opportunity to consider a nominee or announce his choice.

By the time a nomination comes up for a vote in the U.S. Senate for confirmation, the Democrats should have their 60 seat filibuster-proof majority.

0 responses to “Why Elections Matter: Supreme Court Justice David Souter to Retire

  1. Yes, in a short answer Obama is what I voted for. I’m tired of justices that seem to keep upholding more and more intrusive Government spy powers, support torture, keep supporting federal laws restricting what you can read or download (not to mention what you can smoke) and generally fall in line with what you’d expect in a third world banana Republic.

    So yes, I want Obama to nominate the most far left liberal he can find, because the court has become seriously twisted to the right.

  2. As for David Souter; he LIED to John Sinnunu and George Bush and sat in the Senate Judiciary Hearing SILENT as he was introduced as a Judge who would not legislate from the bench and uphold the Constitution as written; not as some kind of silly putty to be molded for this temporary belief or that such as the current Supreme Court ruling that Carbon is a pollutant ; which is laughable because it is the basic make up of our Universe and something we exhale and plants use for life!

  3. Former University law Professor and current Obama Oficial “CASS SUNSTEIN”, a leading advocate of delinking liberty and property rights and President Barack Obama future nominee to the Supreme Court considers Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights” to be among his greatest speeches.
    Sunstein belives that economic value and private property are NOT natural occurances in human interaction but rather the outgrowth of Government and Law.
    Obama has stated before being in the U.S. Senate in 2001 before considering a run for President that the Equal Prptection Law of The Constitution designed to protect the Slaves of The South was written to “REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH” and wants a Justice sitting on The Supreme Court that is “INDEPENDENT” and instead of laws being enforced by The Rule Of Law be enforced by the Rule of Judges!
    This is a very dangerous coarse to follow because it brings into the Courts rights of everything immaginable that could be turned over to the Government.

    Is this what you voted for folks??!!

  4. Elections do not matter. I imagine everyone has forgotten that David Souter was nominated by George H. W. Bush. Does John McCain know enough judges that he wouldn’t choose the 2009 equivalent of David Souter?