(Photo: AP Photo / Charles Dharapak, File)
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s senior justice in age and in tenure, intends to decide in about a month whether he will go on for another year or retire at the end of this term.
Though Stevens is a little more than two years away from having the longest tenure in the court’s history and about one year away from becoming the oldest-ever serving justice, the 89-year-old judge made clear in an interview with The New Yorker that he has no interest in breaking any records.
He also said he has “great admiration” for President Obama and said he is “sure” that he’ll retire within the next three years – roughly around the time Obama will complete his first term as president.
“I’d rather not answer that,” Stevens told The New Yorker when asked if it mattered to him which president named his replacement.
But he added later, “I … certainly think he (Obama)’s capable of picking successfully, you know, doing a good job of filling vacancies.”
Since he was appointed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975, Stevens has shifted from the ideological center of the court to the left, which he presently leads.
Though Obama would likely pick another liberal to fill in Stevens' seat if the justice decided to retire within three years as planned, law experts say he'd be hard to replace as his departure would be like losing the chief justice of the liberal Supreme Court.
“ Stevens is an unlikely liberal icon,” Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker wrote in the write-up for his interview with Stevens.
While in good health, Stevens’ decision to hire just one clerk instead of his usual four sparked growing speculation of a near-future retirement announcement from the justice, who turns 90 on April 20.
When Stevens retires, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will replace him both as the eldest member of the court and also the leader of the court’s liberals.
Notably, however, Ginsburg has suffered from a range of health problems and has also been thought to be one of the most likely to retire next.
But the 77-year-old justice expressed last year her desire to remain on the court for several more years.
Presently, the swing vote on the closely divided court is almost always cast by Justice Anthony Kennedy.