First, it was Arlen Specter fleeing to the Democrap Party when he faced a serious re-election challenge.
Now Justice Souter of the Supreme Court, who has reinvented himself as a Laberal after being appointed by the first President Bush, has decided to retire and let President Obama name an even more liberal replacement:
AP, NBC, and NPR report that Justice David Souter, an associate justice of the Supreme Court for 18 years, will retire at the end of the term. Administration officials were caught by surprise, though I suspect some at high levels were informed, and Souter’s office won’t confirm anything.
Appointed by George H.W. Bush, Souter became a reliable liberal vote on the court and posited himself as an advocate of a constitution that breathes and whose principles are to be informed by modern facts and evidence. He is known by legal scholars as a moderate, but he votes often with the liberal wing.
By all accounts, Mr. Souter was not terribly pleased with the prospect of spending the remainder of his active life on the court. He will return to quiet New Hampshire — if indeed these reports are correct.
Let’s face facts: there are many qualified center-left jurists who are women. Obama will be under enormous pressure to name a woman to replace Mr. Souter, especially given the illness of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Justice John Paul Stevens is 89.
The new associate justice will probably be called upon to decide the constitutionality of Bagram airbase detentions, the scope of the government’s authority to define a national security fact, perhaps the status of gay marriage — and much more.
If Obama appoints a thoroughgoing liberal, Republicans will give him the fight of his life — though he might, by the time of the vote, have 60 Democrats to avoid a filibuster. A more moderate pick would disappoint his liberal base. In reality, Obama can appoint anyone he wants.
I’m praying he “disappoints the liberal base” — he’s gotten so good at doing that lately.
Among those who might make the list of replacements: incoming solicitor general Elena Kagan, formerly the dean of the Harvard Law School, Cass Sunstein, a brilliant constitutional law prof who now works at Obama’s Office of Management and Budget, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, appelate judge Diane Wood, and Leah Ward Sears, the chief justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court. A dark horse might be Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York.
A side note: watch for Vice President Joe Biden, a former chair of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, to play a significant role in this process.
Two very senior administration officials politely refused to comment or speculate about Souter or possible appointments. I am told that orders have come down from the top — as in the chief of staff’s office — that no one is to talk about this to reporters.
Oh, GREAT — Rahm Emanuel is highly involved in the process. Peachy.
— Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic female who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
— Harold Koh, the former Yale Law School dean and an Asian-American, whose nomination as State Department legal adviser is pending.
— Diane Wood, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
— Kim Wardlaw, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who is Hispanic.
— Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a former assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights who is African-American.
Koh is the guy who raised a short firestorm after saying we should respect International Law in our American Courts, and that Islamic Sharia law might be included in that. For my money Deval Patrick is the inside player; he’s black, he’s from Massachusetts 9which would please the Kennedy’s no end), and he’s a Governor. How good a Governor I don’t know personally, although Brian Maloney at the Radio Equalizer has a thousand stories he can tell you. Corruption runs deep in the Bay State.
On the plus side, we could get rid of one of the most unpopular governors in recent memory. And Obama will finally have the chance to reward one of his closest pals and the architect of last year’s brain-dead, yet highly-successful campaign.But the price would be high: Patrick would have a chance to inflict pain on a national level, rather than concentrating his damage in the Bay State.
And if Ginsberg retires for health reasons as well? That’s two.