After 34 years, Justice John Paul Stevens is retiring from the US Supreme Court at the end of the current session, as has been widely expected since President Obama took office. Justice Stevens has consistently functioned as the court's bridge between fierce ideological divides. Jeffrey Toobin summarizes his role nicely in his New Yorker piece:
Still, Stevens’s views suggest a sensibility more than a philosophy. Many great judicial legacies have a deep theoretical foundation—Oliver Wendell Holmes’s skeptical pragmatism, William J. Brennan’s aggressive liberalism, Scalia’s insistent originalism. Stevens’s lack of one raises questions about the durability of his influence on the Court.
But, more than anything, his career shows how the Court has become a partisan battlefield. In that spirit, Roberts last week denounced President Obama’s criticism of the Court in his State of the Union address, saying that the occasion had “degenerated to a political pep rally.” When Stevens leaves, the Supreme Court will be just another place where Democrats and Republicans fight.
Just moments after his resignation was announced, Senator Orrin Hatch released his own little warning to the President, also widely expected.
Every President has an obligation to nominate Judges who understand and are committed to their proper role in our system of government. As I have said for many years, someone who would be an activist judge, who would substitute their own views for what the law requires, is not qualified to serve on the federal bench.
Cool! Let's immediately impeach each and every justice who voted on the Citizens United ruling, then.
As always, the battle will come down to Roe v. Wade. It always does. Conservative states have passed laws intended to wind up in front of the US Supreme Court. The goal is, of course, to get that ruling that weakens or overturns Roe v. Wade completely. With the Citizens United decision still fresh in everyone's mind on both sides, President Obama will need a nominee who can and will stand firmly for the constitutional rights of women, the red-headed stepchildren of our current Supreme Court and still withstand the inevitable GOP filibuster.
It should make for an interesting summer.