Federal Courts and Nominations

Obama: New SCOTUS Pick In ‘Coming Weeks’


Just hours after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement, Pres. Obama said he will select a Supreme Court nominee in the “coming weeks.”

“While we cannot replace Justice Stevens’ experience or wisdom, I will seek someone in the coming weeks with similar qualities — an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people,” Obama said today in the Rose Garden.

Obama referenced the letter Stevens sent to the WH this morning that touched on the importance of confirming someone before the fall term begins in Oct. “I will move quickly to name a nominee, as I did with Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor,” Obama said.

Last spring, a little more than 3 weeks elapsed between David Souter’s retirement announcement and Obama’s selection of Sotomayor: May 1 to May 26.

Leading contenders for the new vacancy are said to include Solicitor General Elena Kagan and appellate judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland. Already, conservative groups have attempted to attack Kagan for memos she wrote during her time in the Clinton admin, and GOPers have said they will not rule out filibustering a nominee.

Senate leadership has roundly praised Stevens for his long tenure on the court: more than 3 decades and just 2 years shy of becoming the longest-serving member. But they are also already hinting how the confirmation process may unfold. “Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint and the fundamental importance of an even-handed reading of the law,” said Senate Min. Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the top GOPer on the Judiciary Committee, underscored his opposition to what he sees as Obama’s empathy standard — “the flawed notion that judges should allow personal feelings, political opinions, and social views to guide judicial decision-making,” he said in a statement. “That approach is deeply unpopular with the American people, and any nominee who subscribes to it should expect bipartisan opposition.”

During the confirmation hearings last year, Sessions took Sotomayor to task for — according to him — embodying that empathy standard. But in a statement today, Senate Maj. Leader Harry Reid said he expects Obama to pick his next nominee using “the same wisdom.”

“I encourage my Republican colleagues to join us in conducting fair, respectful hearings and swift confirmation of the President’s nominee,” Reid said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — the only Republican on the judiciary committee to vote in favor of Sotomayor’s confirmation — said in a statement today that he expects the panel’s confirmation hearings to be “civil, deliberative, thorough, challenging and informative.”

Experts on both the left and right side of the debate are warming to Garland, a 57-year-old DC appellate court judge. They also say he would be a politically easy choice for Obama.

Doug Kendall, executive director of the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center, said Garland “deserves his place on the Obama short list”, describing him as “a brilliant judge and an eloquent spokesperson who would provide a decisive victory at a critical time for President Obama.” He didn’t go so far to endorse him as a nominee though.

Carrie Severino, executive director of the right-wing Judicial Confirmation Network, said the time frame to select and confirm a nominee is shorter than it could have been given the fact that Stevens will retire at the end of the term instead of once the next justice is confirmed. And because of that, Severino said, “I would hope Merrick Garland would be first on his list or else it will be a very ugly summer.” Ed Whelan, president of the also right-leaning Ethics and Public Policy Center, said Garland “is the best nominee Republicans can hope for. I think his selection would be a significant step toward resolving the judicial wars.”

But Garland hardly departs from the “ivory tower” persona Obama pushed back against so much when he picked Sotomayor, a Hispanic woman raised in the Bronx. Minority and women’s groups will likely come out against Garland as the nominee.


Read the original article here.


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