November 11, 2008

Jan Crawford Greenburg looks at the possible Supreme Court openings.

People keep assuming the elderly Stevens and Ginsburg will leave. And then there's the notion of "the eccentric David Souter, who's only 69, but who complains to friends that he hates Washington and just wants to flee home to New Hampshire, where he can wrap himself in scratchy blankets and sit by the fire reading books in his unheated cabin." Greenburg is skeptical:
Stevens is showing no signs of slowing down. He's as active as ever from the bench, peppering lawyers with astute questions. His colleagues say that in private, he's also as sharp as ever.

Same for Ginsburg, a cancer survivor who stirred retirement talk a couple terms ago when she fell asleep a time or two during an oral argument. When people see her for the first time, they exclaim how she's so petite and frail in her appearance. But she's always been petite and frail in her appearance.

She's focused and engaged during the arguments, asking questions and, as she did yesterday, giving assists to struggling lawyers who are withering under cross-examinations from more conservative justices....

And Souter, according to some of his colleagues, loves the work and may just be complaining to friends that it's Washington he finds tiresome, as part of his "I'm an eccentric New Englander" persona.

Yes, the pattern for the Justices has been to hang on as long as they can.

22 comments:

Host with the Most said...

Stevens and Ginsburg should enjoy the rest of their lives as much as they can. They've already done enough damage o the United states. Give someone else a shot.

Balfegor said...

"the eccentric David Souter, who's only 69, but who complains to friends that he hates Washington and just wants to flee home to New Hampshire, where he can wrap himself in scratchy blankets and sit by the fire reading books in his unheated cabin."

Sounds like a character out of Lovecraft. I'm sure there's an eldritch horror just waiting for him off the New England coastline.

MadisonMan said...

Souter is younger than Scalia. They're not that old.

Bissage said...

I’m surprised a graduate of the University of Chicago's law school and a member of the New York bar thinks the appellate judiciary cross-examines appellate counsel.

Objection, Your Honors, beyond the scope of direct!

Heh.

BTW, isn’t it funny how witnesses either “stand up” to cross-examination or they “wither” under cross-examination?

We need some new clich├ęs.

Remained erect.

Went flaccid.

Simon said...

MadisonMan said...
"Souter is younger than Scalia. They're not that old."

Sure, but the rumors don't have to do with age or health. The scuttlebutt has long been that he doesn't enjoy life in D.C. Now, I'm skeptical of that, and hope he stays put; he's one of the best writers on the court, even when wrong.

Sloanasaurus said...

Imagine if Obama went 4 years without an appointment to the Court. Wow! I am sure Stevens and or/Ginsburg will be forced to leave after a public campaign against them by the liberal media. It's only a matter of time. When will the stories start about Stevens not being coherent or Ginsberg showing signs of age... I say they start on January 21.

Ann Althouse said...

I think Greenburg's interpretation of the complaints sounds more like the way human beings act.

And don't most people complain about Washington? You know, anyone who wants to stay home and read books is pretty well free to do that in Washington too.

Simon said...

Something else to consider: it's not all about the Supreme Court.

Last year, there were 58,410 federal appeals filed, to say nothing of the state courts; the Supreme Court took roughly a hundred cases when you take into account both the plenary docket and other stuff like summary grants. Thus, if you file a federal lawsuit, chances are that your last port of call is the court of appeals, and do not think that every question in every field is definitively answered by mechanically-applicable Supreme Court precedent.

Now consider that Obama, even if he doesn't get a single appointment to the Supreme Court, he will have the power to effect a sea change on the lower federal bench. The moment that Obama walks in the front door on January 20th, he will have thirteen vacancies on the court of appeals - four on the Fourth Circuit alone. The few remaining Carter holdouts will go; many of the Reagan appointees are going to get to the point of retirement or taking senior status.

Significant change is coming, and not for the better.

Jon said...

I think Stevens will stay on, at least long enough to set the record for longest-serving justice, which I've read would be sometime in the summer of 2012- not sure of exact date.

And if so, he might want to exceed the record by more than a few months, so as to to make it it less likely it will ever be broken. He also might not want to announce his retirement just months before a presidential election.

jdeeripper said...

Stevens is showing no signs of slowing down.

Come on the guys 88 years old. He'll be dead and gone within the next 4 years.

One old liberal out, a younger liberal in. Maybe Sullivan from Stanford.

Mark O said...

Isn't it unremarkable that someone with life tenure to one of the most important and powerful jobs in the world would want to stay on for life? It is an interesting job, with wonderful perks and then, what about those robes!

So what if Obama appoints judges? Some of the most corrupt and stupid judges to whom I have ever addressed the ironic phrase "Your Honor," were Republican apointees.

And what did we get from the Warren Court (Ike's choice)? Only civil rights and civil liberties which we now all seem to agree are important.

Let's go burn a flag or tear up our draft cards or grow our hair.

halojones-fan said...

I like the idea of Supreme Court justices scattering to the winds--but remaining as members of the Supreme Court. It would be like a heroic quest to get a decision--you have to travel to the frozen North and meet Souter the hermit, who wraps himself in wool robes and lives in a frozen forest. Then you go to the pleasure-city of New Orleans and find Thomas the sybarite in the back of some dark bar, with a dark man playing dark music, and keep one hand on your Federalist soul. The plains of Nebraska are your next destination, as you match cattle-breeding metaphors with Stevens. Kennedy makes his home in the noble city of San Francisco, home of scholars, bedecked with bridges and glory. Ginsburg and Alito make their homes among the sky-topping towers of Manhattan, lofty goals among bustling streets mixed with back-room deals as complicated as any feral garden.

And last, you must go to Washington D.C., the City of Kings. Mind how you step, for intrigue is everywhere, and the intrigue runs as deep as the rhetoric rises high. Only the most virtuous can avoid being compromised three different ways before they manage to meet with Stevens, the Chief Justice of the land...

Chip Ahoy said...

The message up there above this box I'm writing in says I may digress but to be creative about it and to amuse you. Therefore, being something of a literalist, and having nothing to add to this discussion, I animated Blaine.

Donn said...

Chip to the rescue!

Donn said...

Hopefully the return of the old "new" comment thingy won't crash and burn this time when comments run over 200!

Roger Sweeny said...

You may not like Washington, DC, but what politically engaged person doesn't like being God? (And what person gets to the Supreme Court without being politically engaged?) Being a Justice of SCUSA is the closest you can come to being God in this country.

MTfromCC said...

1. Stevens will retire during the Obama term -- but probably not Day One, as many expect. He will not wait 3 full years to retire.

2. Souter and Ginsburg are pure speculation. Nobody really knows. But my guess is that Souter will stay until he is elderly or dead, and that Ginsburg will retire within the next 24 months.

3. I think there will be some surprises, like one of the older members of the conservative bloc -- Kennedy, Thomas or Scalia -- retiring.

4. I think that, despite his age, Obama will appoint Larry Tribe as his first to the Supreme Court (particularly if he appoiints Eric Holder to be Attorney General), with Holder and, yes, Hillary Clinton, as possible choices. I think Tribe gets it because he is the most knowledgable constitutional scholar on the left, is a Harvard icon, and is the strong progressive voice that is needed to counter Roberts' and Alito's "death by a thousand cuts" form of incrementalism, and Scalia's and Thomas's ideological approach to so-called "originalism." Obama would prefer he be in his 50's, but I think he will accept the advanced age in exchange for the high wattage Tribe would bring to the Court.

TitusTimeClockofTheHeart said...

I find Souter to be the most interesting on the court because he seems the most mysterious.

You never hear a word from him.

I like that. He is kind of cute for a gizzard too.

Trooper York said...

All of the justices should be forced to retire at 80. Even the freakin' cardinals have to retire when they hit that age.

And I didn't mean Stan Musial either.

The only thing more arrogant and egotistical than a lawyer is a judge.

hdhouse said...

Geeese...what insight. and I thought Thomas had died long ago.

Mark O said...

Troop.

The only thing more egotistical than a judge is a soccer official.

William said...

There is not much evidence that the wisdom of age--at least when you're far past eighty--counterbalances the frailties of age. If Stevens believes that at 88, he brings some irreplaceable wisdom to the court, he lacks good judgement. Good judgement is, in some respects, almost as important as a judical temperment and favorable reports in the Times....Lifetime tenure was a good idea before they discovered the fountain of eternal senescence. How about a mandatory retirement age of 75?