Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, is retiring. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill.
Stevens said Friday he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July. He said he hopes his successor is confirmed “well in advance of the commencement of the court’s next term.”
Stevens’ announcement leaves ample time for the White House to settle on a successor and for Senate Democrats, who control a 59-vote majority, to hold confirmation hearings and a vote before the court’s next term begins in October. Republicans have not ruled out attempts to delay confirmation.
Stevens’ announcement, which came 11 days before his 90th birthday, had been hinted at for months. It’s presumed Obama will nominate another liberal, so Stevens’ departure wouldn’t alter the court’s philosophical makeup.
Throughout his tenure, which began after President Gerald Ford nominated him in 1975, Stevens usually sided with the court’s liberal bloc in the most contentious cases – those involving abortion, criminal law, civil rights and church-state relations. He led the dissenters as well in the case of Bush v. Gore that sealed President George W. Bush’s election in 2000.
Stevens began signaling a possible retirement last summer when he hired just one of his usual complement of four law clerks for the next court term. He acknowledged in several interviews that he was contemplating stepping down and would certainly do so during Obama’s presidency.
Obama planned to address Stevens’ retirement in a 1:20 p.m. EDT statement in the Rose Garden.
- Associated Press