[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] predicted Sunday that President Obama will nominate a replacement for retiring [press release; JURIST report] Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens [official profile; Cornell LII materials] in time for hearings to be concluded over the summer. In an appearance [transcript] with Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official website] on NBC's "Meet the Press" discussed the coming confirmation battle over the replacement for Stevens, who announced Friday that he would retire at the end of the court's 2009 term this summer. Leahy said "I think we're going to hear [a nomination] soon enough so that we can wrap this up this summer." Sessions would not rule out the possibility of a Republican filibuster of the nominee, however, saying:
[I]f we have a nominee that evidences a philosophy of "judges know best," that they can amend the Constitution by saying it has evolved, and effectuate agendas, then we're going to have a big fight about that because the American people don't want that.Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) [official profile] expressed similar sentiments in an appearance [transcript] on ABC's "This Week" Sunday where he would not rule out the possibility of a filibuster against a nominee that "com[es] to the bench with an ideological position," but described the filibuster as "unlikely."
In a letter [text, PDF] to Obama explaining is retirement, Stevens wrote, "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." There had been much speculation about Stevens's possible retirement, and leading candidates for his replacement reportedly include Solicitor General Elena Kagan [official profile] and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland and Diane Wood. Stevens, 89, was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford and was seated in December 1975. He previously served on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Stevens is the court's oldest and most senior member and has served as the leader of the court's liberal bloc. His retirement gives Obama his second opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice, following last year's retirement of Justice David Souter and confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor [JURIST reports].