The court has completed hearing oral arguments for the year and will be issuing rulings and opinions until the end of June. Souter is expected to remain on the bench until a successor has been chosen and confirmed, which may or may not be accomplished before the court reconvenes in October.
At 69, Souter is nowhere near the oldest member of the court, but he has made clear to friends for some time now that he wanted to leave Washington, a city he has never liked, and return to his native New Hampshire. Now, according to reliable sources, he has decided to take the plunge and has informed the White House of his decision.
Souter’s retirement would give President Obama his first appointment to the high court, and most observers expect that he will appoint a woman.
The three obvious candidates are Elena Kagan (SG), Sonia Sotomayor (CA2), and Diane Wood (CA7). The sleeper candidate is Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
All four were born between 1950 and 1960. Diane Wood is the most respected as a judge. But she is the oldest (born 1950), and as a consequence a seat this summer would likely be her one shot. Kagan and Granholm have the advantage of being the youngest (born in 1960 and 1959, respectively). Granholm has experience dealing with legislatures and actually representing people, as well as law enforcement experience as the state’s attorney general. Sonia Sotomayor has the advantage that she would be the first Hispanic nominee to the Court; she also served as a trial judge. She and Judge Wood have the longest written track record, but not one that would present any obstacle to confirmation with this Senate.
While folks say that whomever Obama picks won’t change the ideological makeup of the court considering Souter’s tendency to lean to the left, it’s still seriously exciting to anticipate another woman justice; that in itself will be a notable change. (Send good thoughts to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is now recovering from cancer surgery – and currently the only woman serving.)
Melissa Harris Lacewell suggests Kimberle Crenshaw for the job. Does anyone have a favorite or wish list for the shortlist?