05/01/2009 (10:42 am)
Supreme Court Justice David Souter has reportedly announced that he will retire at the end of this year’s session. Souter’s health is excellent, and he’s younger than many on the court, but it’s reported that he hates living in Washington, DC, and longs to return to New Hampshire. Thus does the replacement of liberal judges by liberal politicians begin.
Of course, Souter was not supposed to be a liberal judge. He was appointed by George Bush 41, and certified by John Sununu as a died-in-the-wool conservative. If I recall correctly, this was disturbed when Souter began absorbing the legal theories of Larry Tribe of Harvard Law School. Souter has since become one of the reliable liberals on the Court.
Replacing a liberal justice with another liberal justice will not change the composition of the Court this year, but law professor Eugene Volokh observes correctly that the new justice will probably remain on the court for close to 30 years, and will therefore affect the Court’s balance for much longer than Justice Souter would have on his own.
In a remarkable turn of fortune that nobody else predicted, Bill Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection reports that the defection of Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party actually confers on Republicans an unexpected opportunity to block President Obama’s judicial nominees in committee. It seems that the Senate Judiciary Committee has a rule that requires at least one vote from the minority party before a nominee can be sent to the general chamber for approval. Until now, that vote could be counted on from Sen. Specter. Since he’s now part of the majority, that vote will have to come from one of the other Republicans on the committee: Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn. Graham is arguably the weakest link, but it’s doubtful that he’s as far to the center as was Specter.
1 Comment »
Comment by RM
I see this as a far, far bigger long term hit to the conservative movement than recent events such as the defection of Specter.
First, I commend and appreciate the grace he showed by choosing to retire during a term of the political party that nominated him. And it was particularly fitting and gracious since the recent President was the son of the President who appointed him.
Oh, right, excuse me. He didn’t do that. He chose now, just three months into the administration of the most radical Democrat ever to hold the Presidency, to announce his retirement.
You were so correct, Obama is shrewd enough to make sure that whoever he appoints is young enough to leave a stamp on the courts for decades.
But the real stinger is that he will likely get to appoint at least two other judges, both of whom can also be expected to be extremely liberal, relatively young, and activist in nature.
And that assumes that Scalia and Thomas stay healthy. Gulp.
Then let’s take it a step further and project forward to a second term of Obama. If that happens, we’re probably looking at a 5-2 hard left, activist, liberal court that could (Gulp, again) be in place until our college age kids and current crop of military people now serving us honorably would have been beginning to think about retirement.
Elections and votes sure do have consequences. Hope Peggy Noonan, Christopher Buckley et all are comfortable with the direction the train is moving because it may be a long, long journey.