Opinion: Obama looking for new Supreme Court justice, but can Souter go home again?


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Now that Supreme Court Justice David Souter has signaled his intention to leave the court, Washington has turned its full speculative attention to President Obama‘s short list to replace him.

Souter has been a consistent moderate-to-liberal voice on the court -- much to the annoyance of President George H.W. Bush, who appointed him.


With Democrats soon to have 60 votes in the Senate -- thanks to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter‘s defection from the Republican Party this week and comedian-turned-politician Al Franken‘s expected court victory in Minnesota soon -- Obama should have license to Go Left, without fear of repeating the first President Bush’s need to go with a consensus choice.

The possibilities are tantalizing. This list, from NBC’s Pete Williams, is making the rounds: Johnnie Rawlinson (U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, African American woman), Leah Ward Sears, (chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, African American woman), Sonia Sotomayor (2nd Circuit, Latino woman), Kim McLane Wardlaw, 9th Circuit, Latino woman), Diane Wood, (7th Circuit, woman, taught with Obama at the University of Chicago), Jennifer Granholm (Michigan governor, woman), Merrick Garland, (Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit), Deval Patrick (Massachusetts governor, African American, Obama friend), Cass Sunstein (University of Chicago law professor, Obama friend).

For his part, the reclusive Souter has said he looks forward to retiring to the idyll of his quiet home in New Hampshire, leaving behind the intensity of the nation’s capital for walks in the woods and time to read. In fact, he once said that he felt he had ‘the world’s best job in the world’s worst city.’

But he might want to watch his back. After providing the swing vote in the Supreme Court’s infamous eminent domain decision (Kelo vs. New London) that allowed cities to grab land, a decision that infuriated many Americans, citizens in his hometown of Weare were asked to vote on a measure that would have evicted Souter from his house and taken the land for a new ‘Lost Liberty Hotel.’

The 2006 initiative lost, so we imagine that Souter, just like Dorothy, will be able to go home after all.

-- Johanna Neuman

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