News of Justice David Souter’s plan to retire at the end of the Supreme Court’s current term immediately set off one of Washington D.C.’s most cherished parlor games: speculating who will take his place.
Long before Souter’s decision was known, legal eagles and political observers were taking stabs as to who would be an ideal fit for a Barack Obama Court.
The Supreme Court was the the number one issue during the campaign for me and it was a no-brainer. Elect McCain and you get maybe two or three associate justices like Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts possibly giving the neo-cons a 7-2 spread and resulting in an overbalanced court for decades to come.
Elect Obama and you get pretty much the same make-up as now, swapping moderate to liberal associate justices who leave the bench with moderate to liberal replacements thereby maintaining the status quo. The current make-up for the SCOTUS is four conservative justices, (remember the acronym “RATS”) Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia and four moderate justices (one could hardly describe them as liberal), Breyer, Ginsberg, Stevens, and Souter. The swing vote lately has been Kennedy. There will be no tipping of power toward the left until Justice Kennedy retires. Here’s the make-up by ideology:
Chief Justice Roberts is only 54 and in good health.
Alito is 59.
Thomas is 61.
Scalia is 73.
Breyer is 71.
Ginsberg is 76 and has cancer, currently in remission.
Stevens is 89 and may be the next to retire.
Souter is 69 and is retiring now.
Kennedy is 73 and in good health.
Naming a Latino woman such as Sotomayor, or any woman for that matter, would go far for Obama. Getting one confirmed is another matter. Ben Smith from Politico addresses the issues that the three main female contenders would face from the ne0-con religious right crowd in Congress, you know, Senators Lindsay Graham, John Cornyn, Tom Coburn, Jon Kyl, and Orrin Hatch – all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The three women that may be on Obama’s short list are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Federal Appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and Illinois Appellate Judge Diane Wood. The right-wing will fight hard to stop Sotomayor’s nomination, but they would absolutely SCREAM if Dianne Wood is nominated.
So that’s my pick.
Diane Wood: Wood, a 58-year-old Chicagoan, has served for 14 years on the city’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. She has made a reputation as a strong liberal voice on an otherwise conservative bench and her name was decidedly in the mix when speculation first arose that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would retire due to medical issues. The one downside: her position on abortion rights has already sparked the ire of conservatives and pro-life groups, portending a potentially contentious confirmation process.
I can breathe a sigh of relief that McCain wasn’t elected – again.