April 30, 2009

Justice Souter Steps Down: First Supreme Court Pick Looms for President Obama

While popular speculation held that President Obama's first Supreme Court vacancies would arise in the seats of two of the most liberal Associate Justices (the nearly post-octogenarian John Paul Stevens and the frail Ruth Bader Ginsburg), it turns out that Associate Justice David Souter (pictured left), a slightly younger liberal member of the Court, is the one providing President Obama with his first nomination opportunity. 

With Senator Arlen Specter's recent defection to the Democratic Party (Did the wiley Specter possess a bit of insider info about this impending vacancy? He will certainly bask in the limelight of leading from the majority side in yet another high profile Supreme Court confirmation process.)  setting up a nearly filibuster-proof Democratic super-majority, Obama's pick will face little meaningful opposition from the remaining Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee or in the full Senate. 

In replacing Souter, Obama's likely selection of a left-leaning nominee will be merely a liberal-for-liberal swap, maintaining the existing ideological weighting on the Court. Along with Stevens and Ginsburg, the other liberal Associate Justice, Stephen Breyer, will remain.  The conservative Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, the conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, and the swing vote, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, will likewise remain, leaving the balance of power on the Court intact, for now.

Who will be Obama's first Supreme nominee? His vanquished foe Hillary Clinton? His elusive mentor William Ayers?  A lesser known patron? A rising protege, someone young enough to shape the court in the President's image for a generation? 

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