Friday, April 9, 2010

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to Retire

The Associated Press reports that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has confirmed his retirement, effective this June: "Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, says he is retiring. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill."

John Paul Stevens' Questionable Legal Judgment

The Cato Institute's Senior Fellow in constitutional studies, Ilya Shapiro, writes today that John Paul Stevens is a man of unquestionable integrity and professionalism (not to mention that his rigorous fitness regimen is "the envy of men much younger than he" -well on his way to one hundred years of age, John Paul Stevens actively swims, runs, golfs, plays tennis, and can probably do more push-ups than you).

Sadly, as likable as John Paul Stevens is, Shapiro points out that he has a marked penchant for poor legal judgment: "While a friend of liberty in certain limited circumstances, he ultimately hangs his hat on supporting government action over the rights of individuals in contexts ranging from property rights (Kelo v. New London) to the Second Amendment (D.C. v. Heller) to free speech (Citizens United and Texas v. Johnson, the flag-burning case) to executive agency power (Chevron)."

Who Will Obama Pick To Replace Justice Stevens?

Fox News Sunday asked Sen. Arlen Specter (D) of Pennsylvania, who said: "I think we need someone who will step into Justice Stevens' shoes, who will be very tough on the issues of executive power. I think we need the kind of balance that Justice Stevens has provided to offset the majority on the court, which is in favor of executive power." Meanwhile, Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona didn't rule out the possibility of a filibuster if Obama picks someone with "preconceived attitudes" about what agenda they want to bring to the court.

Cato's Shapiro has a short list of possible replacements for John Paul Stevens that he seems hardly thrilled about: "Each of the candidates on the 'short list' to replace Stevens—most notably Elana Kagan, Diane Wood, and Merrick Garland—has pluses and minuses in terms of their approach to the law (not to mention politically). But in any case this summer’s confirmation hearings will again show the American people the different approaches to the judicial role. At a time when the constitutional interpretation looms large in an electoral context—not least with the growing discomfort over the massive new health reform—voters will be able to see the dangerous consequences of following the errant jurisprudential path that Justice Stevens blazed so honorably."