Friday, May 01, 2009

Justice Souter announces retirement

The A.P. article, The Best Job in the Worst City, by Michelle Salcedo, is a nice, short profile, and was one of the earliest filed reports on Justice Souter's announcement that he is retiring. From, Political Intelligence column, a nice bit of speculation on the replacement by Foon Rhee here. A bonus, if you follow the link, is a video of NECN's (New England Cable News Network) report on Justic Souter's retirement.

What kind of jurist will President Obama look for to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court?

Based on what he said as a candidate, perhaps someone very much like Souter, at least in a more moderate, restrained judicial philosophy.

While the president was rather circumspect during the campaign, he did suggest he would like those with real world experience and empathy for the vulnerable, possibly expanding the pool of candidates beyond the usual farm team of federal appeals court justices. (All nine justices now are former federal appeals court judges.)

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press editorial board last October, he praised Souter and Justice Stephen Breyer as "very sensible judges. They take a look at the facts and they try to figure out: How does the Constitution apply to these facts? They believe in fidelity to the text of the Constitution, but they also think you have to look at what is going on around you and not just ignore real life.

"That's the kind of justice that I'm looking for," he continued on. "Somebody who respects the law, doesn't think that they should be making the law, but also has a sense of what's happening in the real world and recognizes that one of the roles of the courts is to protect people who don't have a voice."

He added that the "special role" of the court is to protect "the vulnerable, the minority, the outcast, the person with the unpopular idea."

"We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom," Obama said at a Planned Parenthood conference in 2007. "The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criterion by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."

In the Detroit interview, while he also praised the more liberal Earl Warren, William Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall as "heroes of mine," he added, "that doesn't necessarily mean that I think their judicial philosophy is appropriate for today."

Obama went on to say that while activist judges were needed to "break that logjam" on racial discrimination, he wasn't sure the same was needed today. "In fact, I would be troubled if you had that same kind of activism in circumstances today."
This UPI report speculates that Obama may select Judge Sonia Sotomayor, an experienced Hispanic judge from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Another possibility is Diane Wood, a federal judge in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and former colleague of the President from Chicago. The UPI article also mentions former Harvard Law dean Elena Kagan as a possible Justice, but discounts her chances because she is doing such a good job where she is, as solicitor general (isn't that the way of the world?).

I will miss having Justice Souter at the Court. Despite being nominated by Republican President George H.W. Bush, he was a very solid, sensible voice and to me, seemed middle of the road (does that tell you something about my politics?) Good luck, Mr. Souter! I hope you don't have to wait too long.

This nice photo of Justice Souter is from where they include a very nice brief c.v. of the justice as well.

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