More on Justice Souter’s Retirement


Says NPR:

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.

Via TPM, we find that SCOTUSblog had a few predictions earlier this year as to who would be picked if there was a space to fill this summer:

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?

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20 Comments

  1. feminismforever
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Souter is generally viewed as one of the court’s liberals, but that is largely because the court is so conservative. He is good on some things and votes with Ginsburg/Stevens/Breyer more often than not. But he is still very conservative on some issues. Bringing someone more progressive onto the court definitely has the possibility to change the outcome on some cases. Also, bringing someone new, young and progressive has the possibility to influence other justices in an intangible way.
    That said, I don’t have anyone specific in mind yet.

  2. aftercancer
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    This makes me sooooo sad. We couldn’t get rid of Thomas or Scalia for crying out loud, we have to lose one with some common sense? I’m very concerned that he’s ill and that’s the reason for the retirement so I’m busy just keeping a good thought.

  3. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    It is extremely common for liberal justices to retire when a Dem president is in office, and for conservatives to wait for a Republican. So unless on of the conservative justices happens to die, we’re stuck with them for a while longer.
    I’m confident whoever Obama nominates will also have sense, and I think another woman on the court would be a valuable addition. Souter may be liberal, but he’s still got male privilege blinders.

  4. SnrkyFeminist
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I think it is too early to speculate on who would receive the nomination. We don’t know any sort of promises Obama made during the campaign, the seat might already be “set-aside” for someone.
    It better damned well be a woman, is all I gotta say. I am just about sick and tired of having men run every branch of government.

  5. Iam138
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Karen Nelson Moore, 6th Circuit. She was a clerk for Harry Blackmun, and is a friend of the family. Unfortunately, she is a little over 60.

  6. Robert Johnston
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    My personal preference would be a Jennifer Granholm nomination. I think the Court could stand a few appointees with political and executive legal experience; as a former gover and AG, Granholm has that in spades. She’s ideologically acceptable, the right age, and the fact that she’s ineligible to run for President unlike most similarly situated people means that a desire for higher political office isn’t really an issue.
    In any event, judicial experience in Supreme Court nominees is extremely overrated, not to mention a severely limiting qualification given the stacking of the lower courts with conservatives in the past 30 years.

  7. dream
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I am hoping for a more libertarian leaning liberal. Someone who would vote mostly with the liberal side, but occasionally will join the conservative side when it comes to things like the Kelo v New London case.
    As long as they are thoughtful and reasonable, I don’t care about their gender.

  8. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I don’t much like a lot of libertarianism, but I agree that Kelo v. New London was a ridiculous decision. I note, however, that in that case the justices did not vote along a liberal/conservative split.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London#Majority_and_concurring_opinions

  9. Jen R
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I never could understand the way the liberal/conservative divide shook out on Kelo. It seemed like an obviously wrong decision to me as a liberal.

  10. dream
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that that is a fairly conservative group arguing against the decision, but I may be wrong.
    Either way, a liberal with a more limited idea of government power would be nice.

  11. dream
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I think it’s pretty clearly a liberal/conservative split. At least according to the justices’ pages on Wikipedia.

  12. dream
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    There are a few other cases like it (although I can’t think of any off the top of my head), but I find that one to be disturbing for so many reasons!

  13. Robert Johnston
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    It mostly seemed wrong because of abysmal news coverage. Kelo was quite clearly correctly decided.
    In particular, the facts of the case went basically unreported in the press. New London had been hit very hard by military base closings and was in the midst of a local economic crisis worse than the one the nation’s experiencing right now. Building new office/retail space to attract employers in the midst of an unemployment crisis was clearly a legitimate public purpose, even if it’s not how you personally would have preferred the crisis to be dealt with.
    The dissent, quite incoherently, held that the takings in Kelo would have been allowable if only the government had maintained ownership of the taken property. But, of course, since government ownership of rental property is 1) generally undesirable, especially to conservatives and 2) completely unrelated to the public purpose of the taking involved, this line of argument was nonsensical gibberish of the highest order.
    The Court in Kelo didn’t really address whether the takings involved were necessary for effecting the public purpose in the case–a much more promising line of attack to disallow the takings involved–because the parties made the case all about whether the purpose itself was legitimate, which it clearly was by any sane and coherent standard. Responding to economic crises is one of the core purposes of government. The purpose of the taking wasn’t to give away land to private business; the purpose was to stop a crisis that was threatening to destroy the city, and it took significant bad faith on the part of the dissent, litigants, and news coverage to characterize the case otherwise.

  14. RobF
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    From the point of view of legislative sovreignty, Kelo was correctly decided. By allowing the taking, it meant that a state could decide whether that use of eminent domain was legal or not. Had SCOTUS instead ruled that it was impermissible, it would have denied the ability of states to decide that for themselves

  15. dream
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Following the decision, many of the plaintiffs expressed an intent to find other means by which they could continue contesting the seizure of their homes.[5] Soon after the decision, city officials announced plans to charge the residents of the homes for back rent for the five years since condemnation procedures began. The city contends that the residents have been on city property for those five years and owe tens of thousands of dollars of rent. The case was finally resolved when the City agreed to move Kelo’s house to a new location. The controversy was eventually settled when the city paid substantial additional compensation to the homeowners.[6] Three years after the Supreme Court case was decided, the Kelo house was dedicated after being relocated to a site close to downtown New London.[7] As of June, 2008, the original Kelo property is now a vacant lot, generating no tax revenue for the city. A group of New London residents formed a local political party, One New London, to combat the takings. While unsuccessful in gaining control of the New London City Council, they gained two seats and continue to try to take over New London City Council to rectify the Ft. Trumbull takings. In June 2006 Governor M. Jodi Rell intervened with New London city officials proposing the homeowners involved in the suit be deeded property in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood so they may retain their homes.[8] But two years after the Supreme Court decision nothing is happening on the ground and it appears doubtful whether the city’s redevelopment project will proceed. In spite of the city’s arguments to the Supreme Court about its state of decline that was said to justify this redevelopment project, the Fitch bond rating service gave New London’s general obligation bonds a solid investment grade rating of AA-.

  16. dream
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    But, of course, whether or not it’s legal, I disagree that the government should be able to forcibly take people’s property in anything but the most dire of circumstances.
    Taking people’s homes for the possibility of bringing in new jobs is sickening. It would be bad even if it had had the desired outcome, instead of just the negative ones.
    Of course, there are other cities that do this pretty often too. And it invariably hurts the poor who are supposedly being hit worst by economic hardship or urban blight to begin with.

  17. TBrady
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    As a resident of Michigan, let me say this: Please do NOT let it be Granholm. From what I have seen, she does not have what it takes. While I respect how far she has gotten in a system pitted against her, she has not helped our state much, which is certainly in a state of turmoil. Really, we need and can do better than Jennifer Granholm.

  18. allegra
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Mmm. I find it kind of funny that Souter was nominated by Bush the First – who thought he was conservative because he was indeed a long-time Republican – but Souter turned out to support liberal decisions anyway. Just shows how kind of weird and unpredictable the process of nominating justices is, that their decisions and positions aren’t (and shouldn’t be) politically motivated.
    I think having a woman on the Court is EXTREMELY important and I’m happy to see Obama has a long list of five or six women. When I heard the Court debating the middle-school strip-search case and all the male justices were talking about how “goofing around and being naked and playing with their underwear in the locker room was always harmless good fun,” and Ginsburg was the ONLY one to pipe up and remind everyone that that is NOT what it’s like to be naked/stripped as a woman, I almost SHIT myself. The entire court case dealt with the question and problem of bodies – particularly, women’s bodies – and here we have these idiots cracking jokes about locker rooms. HALF of that Court – not like 15 percent – should rightly be women.

  19. Morgraene
    Posted May 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Souter has often voted “conservatively” (liberal and conservative labels don’t work as well for judges as they do for legislators because the issues don’t split the same way) in criminal law matters, so an Obama appointee might vote the same way on abortion and the environment, but loosen up the court’s jurisprudence on search and seizure and sentencing.
    I think Sotomayor is the likeliest choice, but there are a few 9th Circuit judges who should be on the list, namely Wardlaw and McKeown, and Justice Sears of the Georgia Supreme Court would be a good choice, too. Justice Sears would be a notable choice because she went to Tulane, and I think 5 or 6 of the current sitting justices went to Harvard, and she comes from the state courts, while most of the sitting justices came from federal circuits. A little bit of new perspective would be good!

  20. Josh Jasper
    Posted May 2, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
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