John Paul Stevens

For Article III groupies, the InterContinental Hotel in Chicago was the place to be last night. The annual meeting of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference of the Seventh Circuit attracted a bevy of judicial superstars, who mixed and mingled at the conference’s grand banquet.

The most notable luminary was Justice John Paul Stevens, the Circuit Justice for the Seventh Circuit (and a former judge of the Seventh Circuit himself). The 90-year-old Justice Stevens, who is stepping down from the Supreme Court at the end of this Term, was joined at the dinner by several of his possible successors.

Justice Stevens actually had the job of introducing one of them, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who delivered the keynote address. In the audience were several other short-listers, including Judges Diane Wood and Ann Claire Williams, of the Seventh Circuit, and Judge Ruben Castillo, of the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

So, what went down at the dinner?

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Potential Supreme Court nominees?

For weeks, the media laundry machine has been circulating news of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’s impending retirement. Now that the buzzer has gone off on that, it’s time to switch to the next cycle: speculation as to who President Barack Obama will nominate to replace him.

President Obama has been dragging his feet in his appointment of federal judges. We are relieved to hear that he is going to pick up the pace for announcing his Supreme Court pick. ABC News reports that the White House is prepared — thanks to Stevens’s public pondering — and that the announcement will come “within weeks.” Which isn’t really very helpful at all. Two weeks? Four weeks? Twelve weeks?

BLT reports on Obama’s speech from the Rose Garden today:

“While we cannot replace Justice Stevens’ experience or wisdom, I will seek someone in the coming weeks with similar qualities — an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law, and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people,” Obama said. “It will also be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.”

Please make it fast, Obama. We’re ready to move on to the confirmation hearing cycle!

Let’s speculate until then, though…

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Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is done with his teasing. He’s been hinting for weeks that he could announce his plans to retire at any moment. Today, he finally made it official.

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.

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With apologies to John Paul “I’m not dead yet” Stevens, speculation has been rampant about who will replace him, if he decides to retire.

Many of the names that came up after Souter retired are bubbling back to the surface, but U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan has to be considered the front runner. Obama hasn’t said anything and Stevens is, you know, still there — but that didn’t stop the Harvard Crimson from handicapping the chances of former Harvard Law School Dean Kagan:

In the face of Justice John Paul Stevens’ impending retirement, the nomination of former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan for the open seat on the Supreme Court has become a likely prospect.

If she is selected as President Barack Obama’s nominee, Kagan—who currently serves as the nation’s first female Solicitor General—will face a number of challenges on the road toward confirmation, including her lack of experience as a judge, her religious background, and her stance on the military.

Man, the “impending retirement” of J.P. Stevens is turning into a a Monty Python skit. But, so long as we’re here, let’s take another look at that religious question. It might be the only thing that could scuttle Kagan’s ascendancy to the high Court…

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Justice John Paul Stevens.jpgJust a quick follow-up to yesterday’s discussion of whether Justice John Paul Stevens’s failure to hire a full complement of law clerks for October Term 2010 might shed light upon his retirement plans. In today’s New York Times, Adam Liptak has an excellent article on the subject. It begins:

A Supreme Court clerkship is a glittering prize and the ultimate credential in American law, one coveted by the top graduates of the best law schools. Until recently, though, only connoisseurs of ambition and status followed the justices’ hiring process closely.

It turns out those hiring decisions may be a sort of early warning system for hints about the justices’ retirement plans. “We’ve started tracking Supreme Court hiring in real time,” said David Lat, the founder of Above the Law, a legal blog.

Thanks for the shout-out, Mr. Liptak! When it comes to being “connoisseurs of ambition and status,” we plead guilty.

Justice David H. Souter’s failure to hire clerks this spring accurately signaled his decision to step down. On Wednesday, the court confirmed that Justice John Paul Stevens, who is 89, has hired only one clerk, instead of the usual four, for the term starting in October 2010. That ignited speculation that Justice Stevens may be planning to step down next summer.

Some thoughts on what’s going on here, after the jump.

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Justice John Paul Stevens.jpgA few weeks ago, we were emailing with one of our sources about an interesting fact we noticed, based on Above the Law’s real-time coverage of Supreme Court clerk hiring. The fact: thus far, Justice John Paul Stevens has hired just one law clerk for October Term 2010 (Sam Erman (Michigan 2007 / Garland)).
We didn’t write about it at the time, because OT 2010 is still a year away, and it seemed a bit speculative to make much of it so far in advance. But others noticed this fact too — and were faster on the trigger about it. Like the AP:

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has hired fewer law clerks than usual, generating speculation that the leader of the court’s liberals will retire next year.

If Stevens does step down, he would give President Barack Obama his second high court opening in two years. Obama chose Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the court when Justice David Souter announced his retirement in May.

Souter’s failure to hire clerks was the first signal that he was contemplating leaving the court….

Indeed. We started the speculation about Justice Souter’s retirement back in April 2009, over at Underneath Their Robes, based in part on his lack of law clerk hiring (and based in part on a sighting of him with Senator Pat Leahy).
But back to Justice Stevens:

In response to a question from The Associated Press, Stevens confirmed through a court spokeswoman Tuesday that he has hired only one clerk for the term that begins in October 2010. He is among several justices who typically have hired all four clerks for the following year by now. Information about this advance hiring is not released by the court but is regularly published by some legal blogs.

Cough cough — like Above the Law?
Commentary from expert observers, plus a reader poll, after the jump.

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* Feds use real-time tracking data from cellphones to locate criminal suspects. It’s like Dodgeball for the bad guys. [Washington Post]
* Barry Bonds to bulk up… his legal team. [New York Times]
* Spotlight on Justice Stevens — and the SCOTUS post-JPS. [Los Angeles Times via How Appealing]
* Interview with neo-Nazi triggers German lawsuit against Vanity Fair. [Jerusalem Post via Drudge Report]
* And you thought you ate too much yesterday. Try running for President! [New York Times]

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGHere’s a quick follow-up on Wednesday’s post, reporting on Supreme Court clerk hiring for October Term 2008. That’s not the Term whose clerks will start showing up for work next month — the October Term 2007 clerks are listed here — but the Term after that.
Interestingly enough, the two justices thought most likely to leave the Court next, Justice John Paul Stevens and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are both done with their clerk hiring for OT 2008. And we also hear that RBG has hired at least one clerk for OT 2009 — very CT-esque of her to hire that far into the future.
Thanks to everyone who submitted SCOTUS clerk hiring info, by email and in the comments. We’ve folded them into our evolving list of OT 2008 law clerks. Check it out, after the jump.

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kids schoolkids black white schoolchildren Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgFrom the opinion of Chief Justice John “Sordid Business” Roberts:

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

From Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent:

“John, John, John, you don’t even — you’re glib. You don’t even know what Brown v. Board of Education is. If you start talking about school integration, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how schoolchildren are affected by racial segregation. That’s what I’ve done. Then you go and you say that no member of the Court at the time of Brown would have agreed with today’s decision.”

Enough quoting from the opinions. How should we react to this ruling?

1. Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin!

2. Brown v. Board has been eviscerated!

3. American schoolchildren will soon be getting after-school milkshakes at lunch counters with Robert Bork!

(Note to diner owners: Keep those floors dry — or at least have a warning sign up while you’re mopping. If Judge Bork slips and falls, he WILL sue your ass.)
Court strikes down school integration plans [SCOTUSblog]
Schools Must Ignore Race in Placing Pupils, Justices Say [Associated Press]

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGThe Supreme Court hasn’t yet finished up for October Term 2006 (which should end tomorrow). The law clerks for October Term 2007 will start arriving next month. But many of them have already started hiring clerks for October Term 2008.
We reported on some of those hires back in this post. And now we have more to add:

1. Conservatives hoping for his retirement will be disappointed. Rumor has it Justice John Paul Stevens has hired all of his clerks for OT 2008. The only one whose name we have, however, is Lindsey Powell (Stanford 2007 / Garland).

2. Justice Antonin Scalia has hired Jameson Jones (Stanford 2007 / Sutton). Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a judicial superhottie, is turning into quite the feeder to his former boss.

3. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has hired at least one clerk for October Term 2008 — Miriam Seifter (Harvard 2007 / Garland) — and perhaps more.

So in terms of OT 2008, Stanford Law School and Judge Merrick B. Garland are off to a good start.
If you have more SCOTUS clerk hiring news to add, please email us (subject line: “Supreme Court clerk hiring”).
A list of OT 2008 law clerks thus far appears after the jump.

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