Justice John Paul Stevens’ announcement that he will retire this summer marks the end of an era for the Supreme Court and a crucial opportunity for President Obama and the Senate to shape the Court’s direction.
Stevens—the last survivor of the era before Supreme Court nominations became televised partisan battlegrounds—has been a bulwark against a Court that has been moving aggressively to the right. His adamant dissent to this year’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, like his dissent in Bush v. Gore, were strong defenses of democracy and indictments of an increasingly politicized Court.
President Obama now has the chance to nominate another Justice who will prioritize the rights of ordinary Americans. People for the American Way President Michael B. Keegan said today:
“His retirement will give President Obama his second opportunity to nominate a jurist for our nation’s Highest Court. I hope he will select someone who will continue Justice Stevens’s tradition of working to ensure that individuals receive the fair treatment that our Constitution guarantees. In recent years, the Court has given extraordinary preference to powerful interests at the expense of ordinary Americans. Justice Stevens was a bulwark against that trend. Our country’s next Justice must play a similar role.”
Let’s hope that Republicans in the U.S. Senate will put aside their habits of obstructionism and support the nomination of a Justice who will continue Stevens’ strong, even-handed legacy.