He sent a letter to President Barack Obama this morning — available after the jump — consisting of a single sentence (Souter did it with two):
Having concluded that it would be in the best interests of the Court to have my successor appointed and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of the Court’s next Term, I shall retire from regular active service as an Associate Justice, under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 371(b), effective the next day after the Court rises for the summer recess this year.
This means Obama will have his second opportunity to make an addition to the Supreme Court. U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan is considered by many to be the frontrunner for the nomination.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court rolled this news out officially. Whereas NPR’s Nina Totenberg had the scoop on Justice Souter’s retirement, most news organizations started reporting this news simultaneously around 10:30 a.m., based on the Supreme Court’s official statement. Here it is:
Associate Justice John Paul Stevens has today sent the attached letter to the White House, notifying President Barack Obama of his retirement from the Supreme Court, effective one day after the Court rises for the summer recess this year. Justice Stevens has served on the Supreme Court for 34 years. He is 89 years old.
Justice Stevens was nominated by President Gerald Ford and took his seat on December 19, 1975.
Prior to his appointment to the Court, Justice Stevens served as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit from 1970-1975. He was Associate Counsel to the Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1951-1952, and a member of the Attorney General’s National Committee to Study Antitrust Law, 1953-1955. He was Second Vice President of the Chicago Bar Association in 1970.
Justice Stevens received an A.B. from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law. He served in the United States Navy from 1942-1945, and was a law clerk to Justice Wiley Rutledge of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1947 Term. He was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1949. He is married to Maryan Mulholland and has four children – John Joseph (deceased), Kathryn, Elizabeth Jane, and Susan Roberta.
One reader pointed out that this bio leaves out Stevens’s life between 1955 and 1970. During that time, he was in private practice in Chicago, with a short stint working in D.C. as counsel to a House Subcommittee.
Here is the letter that Justice Stevens sent today:
UPDATE: A statement from Chief Justice John Roberts:
Associate Justice John Paul Stevens has earned the gratitude and admiration of the American people for his nearly 40 years of distinguished service to the Judiciary, including more than 34 years on the Supreme Court. He has enriched the lives of everyone at the Court through his intellect, independence, and warm grace. We have all been blessed to have John as our colleague and his wife Maryan as our friend. We will miss John’s presence in our daily work, but will take joy in his and Maryan’s continued friendship in the years ahead.
Now the speculation as to his replacement can go into full swing.
JPS letter April 9, 2010 [PDF]
Justice Stevens to Retire After 34 Years [New York Times]
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens retiring [Associated Press]
John Paul Stevens retirement: Justice Roberts reacts [Associated Press]
Earlier: Is the Kagan Nomination a Done Deal?