Speculation is that 90 year old US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will retiresometime in the next few months. This will give President Obama a second nominee to the U S Supreme Court. The current makeup and history of the Court suggests that he should nominate another woman to fill the next vacant seat.
Last year Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter. In the Supreme Court’s 220 year history, Justice Sotomayor was only the third woman nominated and subsequently approved by the US Senate. This is despite the fact that there have been a total of 16 Chief Justices and over 100 Associate Justices since the Court began.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed. Ronald Reagan appointed her in 1981 and she retired in 2006. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was appointed by President Clinton in 1993 and is still serving. This brings the current Supreme Court composition to 2 women and 7 men. Justice Ginsberg has had health problems including pancreatic cancer last year and is currently 77 years old. She has been rumored also to possibly step down soon but right now Stevens resigning is more likely in the short term.
The Wall Street Journal mentions two women as likely candidates to succeed Stevens:
“One is Mr. Obama’s solicitor general, Elena Kagan, a former dean of Harvard Law School who was considered for the nomination that ultimately went to Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Despite her scholarly career, Ms. Kagan hasn’t produced the kind of provocative writings that could provide ammunition for conservative opponents, legal experts say.
That also dims enthusiasm for her from liberal groups, who have been hoping for a full-throated progressive ready to joust with such determined conservatives as Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia.
Liberals see a surer voice in another finalist for last year’s vacancy, Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. On a court known for its intellectual heft, Judge Wood has proven a serious counterweight to such influential conservative judges as Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook, legal observers say.
For the same reason, conservative activists say they are more likely to fight Judge Wood’s nomination.”
Jeffrey Tobin in an interview last month on NPR agreed regarding Kagan as a strong possibility:
” I think it’s going to be Elena Kagan, the current solicitor general and the former dean of Harvard Law School. She has a reputation as a consensus builder. She is someone who brought vigorously fighting factions at Harvard together. She worked in the Clinton administration and had good relationships with Republicans in Congress at the time. She has never been a judge, which I think is a point in her favor for Obama. There are all former judges on the court now, and I think Obama wants people of more different backgrounds. So I think she’s the likely choice.”
Given the uncertain future of Justice Ginsberg and the almost total male dominance of the Supreme Court appointees over the lifetime of the Court, it is time to balance out the Court by appointing more women. Obama needs to appoint future Supreme Court Justices that reflect the principles he ran on and that won him election.
No matter who he nominates, it is certain that the Republicans will filibuster or stall the nomination process for any Obama Appointee. The worst thing he could do is try to nominate someone who will appease the conservatives and further push the Supreme Court to the right. After the health care fight it is pretty obvious that Republicans will do anything they can.
Obama’s best chance to regain and strenghten public support for his Presidency is to do the right thing, rather than cater to political inaction and right wing fear mongering. Appointing another woman to the US Supreme Court is the right thing to do. It’s time to right this injustice to women who comprise one half of our nation. A proper balance would be to have 4 or 5 women Justices on the US Supreme Court.
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