Clearing the Bench

Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter announced plans to retire today, prompting immediate speculation as to his replacement. Justice Souter was appointed to the Bench by former President George H.W. Bush in 1990. In addition to surprising conservative backers with his unexpectedly liberal voting, Justice Souter has become known for eccentricities: he drives, not flies, from Washington back to New Hampshire at the close of each term, refuses to purchase a cell phone, and will not use e-mail.  

Justice David H. Souter

Justice David H. Souter

At the top of most short lists: Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood, who taught at the University of Chicago alongside President Obama, and Solicitor General, and former Harvard Law School dean, Elena Kagan (though Kagan has never argued a Supreme Court case). Discussion of the two women has prompted speculation the President will replace Justice Souter with a woman or other minority. Those fitting the criteria might be Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic Justice; Yale Law School dean Harold Hongju Koh, who would be the first Asian American Justice; and former Stanford Law School dean Kathleen Sullivan, who would be the first Justice named Sullivan.

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