Has announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, and a reader emailed me for reaction. My immediate reactions are twofold:
1.) Although it’s no surprise, because Souter is well-known for not particularly liking the DC culture and it’s been general scuttlebutt that he was tired of the Supreme Court five years ago but wasn’t willing to retire because of a certain president likely replacing him with a nutjob, it’s also a bit of a shame. Souter is a really, really good judge, not just because he has a fantastic legal mind (and he does), but because I’ve always found his decisions and dissents are so effortlessly readable, even for a non-legally minded sort. That’s a skill many lawyers and jurists undervalue.
He was also pretty consistently one of the serious civil libertarians on the Supreme Court, often writing decisions or dissents against the death penalty and consistently one of the most interested in prisoners’ rights. These are important issues that don’t often find champions at the highest level of the judiciary in any country.
2.) I would be very surprised if anybody gets the nod to be his replacement over Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit Court. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Margaret McKeown or especially Kim McLane Wardlaw as the nominee, but both are Ninth Circuit judges and therefore guaranteed to elicit total goddamned psychosis from the right wing. (Granted, that’s going to happen regardless, but there are degrees of this sort of thing.) Sotomayor is moderate and well-respected, nominated to the Appeals Court by George W. Bush, and she’s both a woman and would be the first Hispanic-American nominated to the Supremes. (So would Wardlaw, but them’s the breaks.)
The only other high-profile potential nominees who seem to qualify in most of the areas Sotomayor does are Diane Pamela Wood and Elena Kagan. Wood is from Chicago and would therefore suffer both the “OMG corrupt Chicago” attacks and the “hometown Obama nepotism” attacks. Kagan is terrifyingly smart but hasn’t enough public service under her belt yet, which is probably why she took the job as Solicitor General – she’s being given a seasoning of public service before her nomination. (There is NO WAY Obama doesn’t nominate her before the end of his first term.)
And neither Wood nor Kagan would be particularly “historic,” so – yeah, it’s probably Sotomayor.
Top comment: Predictions:
1: Republicans will claim that Obama plans to nominate Bill Ayers.
2: Republicans will claim that whoever gets nominated is worse than Bill Ayers.
3: Republicans will demand to see a birth certificate and five other forms of identification as proof of citizenship.
4: Michelle Bachmann will uncover the nominee’s covert support for a ‘one-world currency’.
5: Michael Steele will make no less than three attacks on the nominee using slang that went out of style with Boy George. — plus C