WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced Friday he will retire from the bench this summer, after serving 34 years on the nation's highest court.
Stevens, 89, is the U.S. Supreme Court's oldest member and a reliably liberal vote. He notified President Barack Obama of his retirement intentions in a letter today.
"Having concluded that 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, I shall retire from active service," Stevens wrote.
Obama will nominate the justice's successor, giving his administration a second appointment to the nine-member court. The president appointed Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor last year.
News reports say the White House has been preparing for Stevens's retirement for some time. Among possible judicial nominees is District of Columbia federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland, U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Chicago-based federal appeals court Judge Diane Wood.
It was widely expected that Stevens would wait until the court's current term is scheduled to end in June before announcing his departure. Retiring justices traditionally announce their plans to leave the bench near the end of a term so their successor can be confirmed by the U.S. Senate by October.
Stevens is the second oldest justice in U.S. history and fourth longest-serving. He was nominated to the high court in 1975 by Republican President Gerald Ford. Prior to his appointment, Stevens served on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from 1970 to 1975.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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