Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has announced his retirement today, bringing President Obama back into the spotlight as he now must choose his replacement.
While Justice Stevens was left-leaning, it does leave political problems, both on the court and for the presidency.
- Justice Stevens acted as a coalition builder on key court decisions, including moves to limit President Bush’s action after September 11th on detaining terrorists. Who will take up that coalition position, now that he’s gone?
- As a left leaning justice, Stevens often delicately fought against the right tendencies of the court. Obama could replace Stevens with a fully progressive judge, which may make the court more polar.
- Obama now has to choose a replacement and have them in place in time for the court’s fall session. While the President previously had a 60-Senate seat majority, he now only has 59 senators. Obama will need to pick a justice that will partially appease the Republicans if he wants to prevent the politicization of the process in a mid-term election year.
- The President’s choices are numerous, and include Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, of the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court, and Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court. There are several other names being mentioned.
- Managing the Congressional debate over his Supreme Court nominee could cost President Obama the opportunity of passing other reform before the mid-term elections. That collateral could include financial reform or energy reform, which will have a significant impact on business.
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