Friday, July 01, 2005

SCOTUS Watch: O'Connor Retires

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court in a letter to President Bush this morning. More soon.


[Update: President Bush will speak at 11:15 from the Rose Garden. Unclear at this time whether he will make a nomination then (just as likely, I would say, is that he would nominate someone just after the July 4 recess, toward the end of next week, so that senators don't have it hanging over their heads at home). So we'll see what he has to say.

Whatever happens, it's not going to be pretty. -- 10:56 a.m.]

[Update: Word now that the president will not nominate a successor today, making next week sometime a more likely scenario. Senator McCain was just on CNN doing a phone interview, of which I will post a transcript as soon as I can get it. He credited O'Connor for her great accomplishments, wished her well, and said that he would be approaching the upcoming nomination process through the perspective of the Gang of 14. He said he expects Bush will nominated a "reasonable conservative" that will not provoke a filibuster, and called himself "guardedly optimistic" that things won't get too nasty. We can only hope. I'll add more when I can. Bush, coming up soon. -- 11:10 a.m.]

[Update: President Bush, in a short statement, said of O'Connor "America is proud of her distinguished service, and I'm proud to know her." He called her a "discerning and conscientious judge, a public servant of complete integrity." President Bush said he will be "deliberate and thorough" evaluating potential successors, and will seek a nominee with a "high standard of legal ability, judgment, and integrity." He added that he will "continue to consult with members of the United States Senate," and said "Americans deserve a dignified process" characterized by "fair treatment, fair hearing, and a fair vote."

"I will act in a timely manner," Bush told the nation, so that the new justice can be confirmed before the new Court term begins (the first Monday in October). But today, he said, was O'Connor's day, and he ended his brief remarks by calling her "one of the most admired Americans of our time."

Timing's going to be interesting: there is some question over whether there would be enough time in July to hold committee hearings and a debate during August, but I can't see the president waiting until after the August recess to nominate. Talk about a long, hot summer. -- 11:25 a.m.]

[Update: Some good commentary on the upcoming nomination process from Alan at The Yellow Line, The Bull Moose, The Moderate Republican, and The Moderate Voice. Mathew at Centerfield makes the "centrist case" for Alberto Gonzales as O'Connor's replacement. I will not go so far as to preemptively endorse a Gonzales candidacy, but frankly there is little hope for anyone else as centrist as he to be nominated by the the president. A Gonzales nomination would incense many arch-conservatives (based on his Texas record), and his torture writings have given many (including myself) serious pause, but I cannot help thinking that Gonzales would be a decent choice for the Court. Republican senators, even the most conservative, would be hard-pressed to oppose Gonzales if Bush nominates him, particularly after their recent "the president deserves his man" arguments in regard to John Bolton. -- 12:13 p.m.]

[Update: CNN reporting that President Bush will not make a nomination until he returns from his trip to Europe next Friday, July 8. -- 12:19 p.m.]

[Update: More from CNN, the White House saying the President intends to consult with Senators Frist, Reid, Specter and Leahy, at a minimum. Of course some question remains as to what they mean by "consult" (i.e. in the traditional sense, or in the "this is our nominee, deal with it" sense). Also, from RedState, word that the O'Connor retirement may have been something of a surprise: sources there suggest that the White House had been preparing for a retirement from Justice Rehnquist instead, and had a list of candidates ready to fill that seat. Of course this now is a very different dynamic. Erick writes that senators had also been informed that today's retirement would be Rehnquist's: " There is some mystery here. Will CJOTUS resign too? Some are already saying yes. My sources all think so."

We shall see.

Democrats now praising Justice O'Connor, all asking the president to consult with the Senate and urging a replacement similar in temperament to O'Connor. Kennedy called O'Connor a "mainstream conservative." -- 12:30 p.m.]

[Update: There will be much ink spilled about this in upcoming hours, days and weeks. I'll be there, following along. Stay tuned, it's going to be an interesting ride. Sadly, I'm afraid it's going to suck all the air out of just about every other issue on the agenda, so for that and every other reason, I hope the the process moves as quickly as possible. Stay tuned! -- 12:44 p.m.]


At 10:34 AM, Blogger cakreiz said...

Wow... and so it begins.

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous SherAn said...

Excellent job, including your updates, Jeremy. Let's all hope for a moderate.

Are you aware that Harry Reid has already named four Republican senators that he feels would receive a positive vote from the Dem side of the Senate if any one of them were nominated?

Surely, Bush is aware that if he nominates and pushes through an extremist that alters the power balance on the Court and a later challenge to Roe is successful, that the Republicans will suffer the same fate as the Dems after the Brown ruling. That being a loss in every election for the next 20-30 years.

Nor do we need another brutal battle with threats of doing away with the filibuster or shutting down the Senate. The country is currently meditating on the Downing Street memo, and a bitter feud over a SC nominee will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, I'm afraid.

With his poll numbers dropping, I suspect that the short list Bush has on his desk will be revised considerably between now and July 10th.

At 1:23 AM, Blogger "A Brown" said...

I agree that overturning Roe would be disastrous for the GOP but I think that abortion is getting too much attention (sorry, shameless plug). As it is, there is still a five vote majority to uphold abortion rights as they stand today. Not coincidently, the current status of abortion rights (morally disapproved but legally available in most cases) is just where public opinion happens to be. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Court pays a great deal of attention towards public opinion. Rather than a symbol of the Court causing electoral headaches, Brown is actually an example of the Court correctly reading public opinion. While it is true that public opinion about segregation was still divided, the Court correctly read the trend towards civil rights. Because the parties were still ideologically heterogeneous, neither was “punished” for desegregation (Republicans were still viewed as the historic party of civil rights). Overall, the Democrats did fairly well in the decade after Brown. Eisenhower had his “lonely landslide” in 1956 but Democrats had wins in 1958 and ’60, while in 1964 Johnson had the largest poplar vote win in American history. It is true that throughout this period the South drifted farther away from its Democratic roots but this started in 1948 when Strom Thurmond ran as a segregationist Dixiecrat in response to Humphrey’s famous “sunshine of human rights” speech. My point, is that we really cannot be sure what will come to define an era of the Court. However, it is rare that the same issue dominates for two consecutive periods. If Democrats and moderate Republicans become overly focused on abortion rights, we are more likely to overlook the rest of a potential justice’s ideology, and this could have dangerous consequences in the future.


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