Friday, May 01, 2009

Potential Souter Replacements

Legal observers are surprised by Justice David Souter's decision to retire from the Supreme Court because he's only 69. Oddly, many people assumed Ruth Bader Ginsburg was referring to her own imminent retirement when she mentioned in a speech that there would be a change at the court this year because of her ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer. Whoever Obama nominates to take Souter's place, there will be no ideological shift--at least leftward--because you can't get much more liberal than Souter. I remember thinking at the time that Souter was a terrible choice when President George H.W. Bush nominated him. Then-White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, a fellow New Hampshirite, vouched for him , even though he had created virtually no paper trail that would allow anyone to discern his legal views. The guy never married and still lived with his mother at the time of his appointment. He led a very private life and nobody really knew much about him. But for his Harvard law degree, I doubt anyone would have thought his legal career distinguished him in a way that qualified him for the high court. Speculation quickly has turned to who Obama might pick. NPR lists these three potential candidates:

Possible nominees who have been mentioned as being on a theoretical short list include Elena Kagan, the current solicitor general who represents the government before the Supreme Court; Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and Diane Wood, a federal judge in Chicago who taught at the University of Chicago at the same time future President Barack Obama was teaching constitutional law there.

Everything Obama has done the past 100 days indicates that his government is a permanent campaign for president. Careful attention has been played to battleground states in the presidential race. His first appointment, therefore, will be made based on political considerations. That tells me that he is likely to pick the first Hispanic to sit on the Supreme Court. With Sotamayor, he gets both a Hispanic and a woman. My betting is on her.

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