Supreme Court nominations
Supreme Court Justice Stevens announced his retirement. At age 90, he has served on the Court since 1975, when he was appointed by President Ford.
Stevens is generally regarded as the court’s liberal leader. He wrote the majority opinion to uphold the constitutionality of the Kelo case (Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) ), which held that the City of New London was within its rights to use eminent domain to transfer land ”from one private owner to give to another in furtherance of economic development”.
In acknowledging Steven’s service on the Court, Obama said that he considers
… retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens an “impartial guardian of the law” who is leaving at the “top of his game,”
This will create a vacancy on the Supreme Court, for which President Obama will submit nominations to the Senate for their “advice and consent” (U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 2).
There will certainly be Republican resistance to Obama’s nominations, just as there has been Democratic resistance to any Republican president’s nominations.
Let’s take a look at how the Democrats reacted to President Bush’s 2005 nomination of Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination, but Senators Ted Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Joe Biden, Richard Durbin, and Diane Feinstein voted against the nomination. In the Senate, all the Republicans voted for, and the Democrats split, with 22 votes for, and 22 against – Senator Obama among them.
Then-Senator Obama explained his position :
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land. Moreover, he seems to have the comportment and the temperament that makes for a good judge.
The problem I had is that when I examined Judge Roberts’ record and history of public service, it is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak.
(Unlike Justice Stevens, perhaps?)
The bottom line is this: I will be voting against John Roberts’ nomination.
(As an aside, Justice Roberts administered the Oath of Office to President Obama in 2009.)
The Washington Post reports that Senator Obama wanted to vote for Roberts – Obama admired Roberts’ intellectual abilities.
Besides, Obama said, if he were president he wouldn’t want his judicial nominees opposed simply on ideological grounds.
[Hold that thought.]
And then Rouse, his chief of staff, spoke up. This was no Harvard moot-court exercise, he said. If Obama voted for Roberts, Rouse told him, people would remind him of that every time the Supreme Court issued another conservative ruling, something that could cripple a future presidential run. Obama took it in. And when the roll was called, he voted no.
I find it fascinating that in 2005, Obama and his chief of staff were considering a presidential run.
Obama has talked about his ideas for Supreme Court nominations, at a conference at Planned Parenthood Today, in 2007.
We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.
That certainly explains his nomination of Justice Sotomayor (a wise Latina). Or maybe we could find a young teenage mom to put on the bench. And some knuckle-dragging conservatives would grumble that a Justice’s job is to interpret the Constitution – not to act as a schoolyard referee of “fairness” and “morality”.
In any event, the next few months will tell us how little “ideological grounds” will enter into the hearings.