There are sudden hints of a possible retirement by the summer of 2010 of Associate Justice John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court.
Stevens, appointed by President Gerald Ford in his only appointment to the high court in 1975, will have served on the court for 35 years by then, making him close to the longest serving member ever, but not quite, as at least Associate Justice William O. Douglas served 36 years on the Court. Also, Stevens is already the second oldest Justice ever, but if he leaves next year, will not break the record of Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was 91 when he retired.
So the possibility of breaking both records by 2012 might not be possible after all, but the question is why Stevens would be leaving, since he seems in fine health at age 89. We do not know, but we realize that he is not, for the first time, planning more than one year ahead in appointing law clerks, as he has done regularly in the past.
So President Obama might have an appointment just as the election season gets hot next summer for the midterm election. And to top it off, who can say whether Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg might also leave, by choice or necessity, after having twice had cancer.
Imagine if Obama has TWO appointments soon, likely before the 2012 election, replacing three liberals with hoped for equivalent liberals within one term. There are guaranteed to be battles with the Republicans in the Senate no matter what, but not quite the same as if a conservative were to retire, which is far less likely anytime soon.