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Stevens Retirement: Short-Term Political Benefit to GOP?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:06 pm - April 9, 2010.
Filed under: 111th Congress,Legal Issues,Supreme Court

Outgoing Justice John Paul Stevens lacks the class of former Justice Byron White.  That latter jurist, appointed to the Supreme Court by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, waited until another Democrat took office to retire.  Even though he had become one of the court’s most conservative members, he thought that he owed it to his party.  Stevens, by contrast, although appointed by a Republican, is perhaps the most liberal member of the current court.

All that said, there is no requirement that a member of the U.S. Supreme Court keep the seat in his party, but that is something to keep in mind.

In the long term, his retirement helps the Democrats and their liberal ideology.  In the short term, it helps the GOP.  I say this because I’m assuming based on Obama’s record in office that he will tap a liberal justice to replace the outgoing Justice.  Perhaps, he’ll appoint someone like Pam Karlan, to the left in judicial matters, to be sure, but possessing a fine intellect.  Her presence on the bench would elevate the debates.  And her skill as a writer plus her wit would make court opinions, hers at least, well worth reading.

You see, by appointing a liberal to the bench, especially so close to the 2010 elections when so many vulnerable Democrats are up for reelection, he forces them to vote on a nominee who will likely be in step with the West Wing crowd, but out of step with the American people.

Via Glenn Reynolds, we get this “understatement” from Doug Mataconis: “Given the political climate, the fact that this is an election year, and the record we already have from the Sotomayor hearings last year, I think we can expect that this will be a very politically charged nomination process.”

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23 Comments

  1. I very much doubt this will be a major issue either way. There was a lot of talk during the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor, but that seemed to dissipate pretty quickly. I think this too will quickly end up buried under a mountain of other issues.

    Comment by Serenity — April 9, 2010 @ 12:54 pm - April 9, 2010

  2. Oh, I don’t think so.

    This is the hill on which the moonbat leftist liberals will die. They want someone who, like Obama, supports ignoring any semblance of private property rights and who supports wholesale redistribution of wealth (Obama has already criticized the Constitution because it explicitly prevents this from happening).

    Things are truly unraveling. We have the black Obama trying to state that judicial candidates can flat-out lie and hide their records because of their racial background. We have Barack Obama puppet Alan Grayson freaking out and having a screaming fit at people in a restaurant when he interrupted their meeting. The Reichstag fire should come sometime in August or September when the desperate Obama Party will try anything, ANYTHING, to keep from being wiped out completely in Congress.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — April 9, 2010 @ 1:24 pm - April 9, 2010

  3. Yeah, I can see someone else freaking out here.

    Lay off the coffee.

    Comment by Serenity — April 9, 2010 @ 3:15 pm - April 9, 2010

  4. I don’t think this is really fair, Dan. If anything I’d say that Justice White was wrong. SCOTUS is a co-equal branch of government and the Justices owe no allegiance to any political party, though I’d say it’s fair to say that many do seem show favoritism now and then. Stevens was a bad justice on many issues, Kelo being the first to spring to mind, but he was also good on others like Bowers & Lawrence. He obviously wants to ensure a bettern chance that his replacement shares a similiar judicial philosophy, just as I’m certain Scalia and Thomas will when they eventually retire. As for the political fallout this year, I’d say if it becomes a bruising fight and the GOP doesn’t go overboard looking like an ass then it may indeed help in November.

    November is coming fast my Democrat friends. Oh yes, it is.

    Comment by John — April 9, 2010 @ 3:21 pm - April 9, 2010

  5. To think that Obama is going to name a justice and it will all dissipate pretty quickly is to believe that frogs fly, they just look like they are thumping their butts on the ground.

    The TEA party phenomenon is attracting huge numbers of independents and Democrats, but the leftists only see the invisible hard right racists and religious fundamentalists spitting and cursing in their mind’s eyes.

    The Democrats held up judicial nominees for 28 months in the Bush administration by resorting to making judicial nominations subject to the filibuster. Republicans are predisposed to play by the established rules, rather than “Bork” or “Thomas” a nominee. But, who knows, maybe the Republicans will have had enough of Leahy, Schumer, Reid duplicity and Obama arrogance.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 9, 2010 @ 4:06 pm - April 9, 2010

  6. Democrat presidents do not appoint swing votes to the court.

    Comment by V the K — April 9, 2010 @ 4:45 pm - April 9, 2010

  7. I have a multi-stage prediction to make that I am so confident in that I will take bets on each part of it.

    1. Obama will appoint someone totally non-controversial and probably someone that is far less liberal than Stevens;

    2. Republicans will be outraged at the choice, will complain about it endlessly in the media, and hold up the nomination as long as possible;

    3. The nominee will take their place on the court, years will pass, and all of the attacks and accusations made by the Republicans will turn out to be totally unfounded.

    Wanna know how I got there? BECAUSE THAT IS THE STORY OF THE SOTOMAYOR NOMINATION. You will do all of that again, and it will be for nothing. Sotomayor has been a justice for awhile now, and you’ll notice how there aren’t any Republicans talking about her. Funny that, because to hear their protestations during her nomination process, you would have thought we would be a third world country by now.

    Same thing with Reverend Wright. One of the oldest tricks in the Republican book is to make something up about your opponents out of whole cloth, aggressively flog your made-up issue while the decisions are being made and the votes are being counted, then completely drop it and pretend like you never said anything and thus were never proven wrong. I mean for all that was said in Republican circles about Rev. Wright and the great danger that Obama would be to the country because of Rev. Wright, none of that sh*t has really come to pass, has it?

    Here’s a tip for how to improve yourselves, and it’s easy. Take the recent lessons you’ve learned about Wright and Sotomayor and apply them to this nomination process. Maybe you won’t embarrass yourselves this time?

    Comment by Levi — April 9, 2010 @ 5:10 pm - April 9, 2010

  8. I don’t know why you’re trying to make a big deal of this. I think Nate Silver has it right with:

    As important as the Supreme Court is, Congressional hearings are still Congressional hearings, and are for the most part an inside-the-beltway affairs that won’t penetrate into the zeitgeist in a year where most voters have things like the economy on their minds.

    As important as this may be, most voters will have stuff like unemployment figures and the fallout of the healthcare bill on their minds. People don’t tend to think of Supreme Court nominations as something of great personal importance to them and don’t base their votes on them. There are other issues that will make much better talking points once the campaigning actually starts.

    Comment by Serenity — April 9, 2010 @ 5:17 pm - April 9, 2010

  9. I mean for all that was said in Republican circles about Rev. Wright and the great danger that Obama would be to the country because of Rev. Wright, none of that sh*t has really come to pass, has it?

    Let’s see; Reverend Wright ranted and screamed about how Jews were evil and how they all deserved to die a fiery death.

    Now we have Barack Obama demanding that Israel surrender, setting up Israel to be attacked with nuclear weapons, supporting Iran’s drive to attain nuclear status, and making it clear that under no circumstances would the United States act to prevent a nuclear attack on Israel.

    Granted, Levi, we know that you would be orgasmic at the thought of millions of Jews being vaporized. But the fact that you see nothing wrong with it hardly makes it acceptable or normal.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — April 9, 2010 @ 5:19 pm - April 9, 2010

  10. Serenity, you may be right. I think it all depends on the person Obama picks–and how he/she comports himself during the hearings. Should the nominee be a left-winger though, the news will get out and impact candidates at the margins. A pro-abortion nominee could really work against Democrats among evangelicals in say Arkansas as well as Washington State and among working class Catholics in Pennsylvania.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — April 9, 2010 @ 5:22 pm - April 9, 2010

  11. but possessing a fine intellect.

    Disqualified. Liberals have no interest in that. They just need somebody who can play the victim card bigger than Sotomayor.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — April 9, 2010 @ 5:54 pm - April 9, 2010

  12. It’s unlikely Obama will nominate someone other than a leftwinger. He has his base to consider. However, Stevens was known as the Leader of the left-leaning members of SCOTUS. He was often instrumental in persuading Kennedy to lean in his direction. With his retirement, whoever fills his seat will be unlikely to be as effective as a leader. The left willl have saved a left-leaning seat, but lost their most effective leader. That’s good for the cause of liberty.

    Comment by Man — April 9, 2010 @ 6:08 pm - April 9, 2010

  13. #9 I forgot about the Rev Wright thing, that he was an anti semite. I wondered where Obama got that hate for the Jews and Israel from. Now I know. Listening to Rev Wright for 20 years.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — April 9, 2010 @ 9:15 pm - April 9, 2010

  14. Republicans need to be wary of Democrats using the Stevens replacement to energize the crazy left. The ones who usually don’t vote unless, a welfare giveaway or drug legalization is on the ballot.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — April 9, 2010 @ 9:16 pm - April 9, 2010

  15. I think it’s more along the lines that Levi doesn’t mind judicial supremacy and discrimination when it is aimed at white people.

    I suppose white people should be happy. after all he also doesn’t mind if brown men kill each other, or us for that matter.

    Comment by The_Livewire — April 9, 2010 @ 9:49 pm - April 9, 2010

  16. I also think that any filibuster attempt will be sabotagued by Michael Steele opening his mouth.

    Comment by The_Livewire — April 9, 2010 @ 9:50 pm - April 9, 2010

  17. Thank you for plugging Pam Karlan. (Where did that come from, BTW?) She’s way to the left of me, but she’s an awesome human being and would be great on any high court.

    Comment by Rhodium Heart — April 10, 2010 @ 1:03 am - April 10, 2010

  18. Rhodium, Pam Karlan taught at U-VA law when I was there and was a phenomenal law professor who showed incredible respect for conservative law students. She even spoke to a meeting of our chapter of the Federalist Society and to our national student symposium.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — April 10, 2010 @ 3:15 am - April 10, 2010

  19. Obama burned his brownie points with Health Care. . .now he has to think about the ’12 elections. Considering most of the ground work on the next set of nomineees was already started with Sototmayer, there will probably be a little bit more scrutiny on any nominee before he or she is tossed out to the dogs. Obama may just find a nominee acceptable in the larger conservative cirlce for the Stevens replacement, but out on the horizon there may be another opening with RBG’s failing health and another SC appointment.

    Comment by rusty — April 10, 2010 @ 11:03 am - April 10, 2010

  20. Levi, what’s with this “The nominine will take their [sic] place on the court…” What ever happened to his/her?

    Comment by royaloak — April 10, 2010 @ 12:43 pm - April 10, 2010

  21. Of course the Republicans in the Senate could develop some balls and keep Obama from appointing anyone to the Court.

    Payback is a bitch, and the Dems are richly deserving of some.

    Comment by Classical Liberal Dave — April 11, 2010 @ 1:18 am - April 11, 2010

  22. Average Gay Joe @ 4:

    SCOTUS is a co-equal branch of government

    Oh no it isn’t.

    All courts except the Supreme Court are created by Congress. And the Supreme Court is only created by the Constitution, not constituted. That is, the number of its members is determined by Congress. That hardly sounds like “co-equal” with Congress to me.

    Congress must appropriate money for the courts to function, and the treasury — which is under the president’s control — controls the flow of those funds. The courts have no say in the funding of the other two branches. There’s no equality there either.

    Anyone who thinks SCOTUS is the equal of the president or the congress probably believes in unicorns too.

    Comment by Classical Liberal Dave — April 11, 2010 @ 1:25 am - April 11, 2010

  23. If anything I’d say that Justice White was wrong.

    Now there, AGJ, you’re right.

    If White was going to consider the president in choosing when to retire, he should have made his decision about the likely jurisprudence of his successor and not any nonsense of party loyalty.

    Comment by Classical Liberal Dave — April 11, 2010 @ 1:29 am - April 11, 2010

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