News / USA

    Stevens Retirement Sets Stage for US Supreme Court Confirmation Battle

    The U.S. Supreme Court is losing its most senior justice.  Justice John Paul Stevens has announced he will retire from the high court after the court's current term winds up in June.  Stevens' departure will give President Barack Obama the opportunity to appoint a second Supreme Court justice and sets the stage for what could be a partisan confirmation fight in the Senate.  

    Word of Justice Stevens' retirement was not a surprise.  Stevens will turn 90 later this month and has given hints in recent months that he was considering retirement.

    Just back from signing an arms treaty in Europe, President Obama offered praise for Justice Stevens at the White house.

    "During that tenure, he has stood as an impartial guardian of the law," said President Obama. "He has worn the judicial robe with honor and humility."

    The president said he had talked with Stevens by phone.  Mr. Obama also said he would nominate a replacement for Justice Stevens with similar qualities.

    "An independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people," said Mr. Obama. "It will also be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens."

    John Paul Stevens was appointed to the nine-member Supreme Court in 1975 by President Gerald Ford.  Stevens is one of the oldest and longest-serving justices in U.S. history.  He spoke about his longevity on the high court in an interview last October with the CSPAN public affairs network.

    "No, I'm not out to break any records, I can assure you of that," said John Paul Stevens. "I just enjoy the work and each year that I have thought about it I have decided that I continue to enjoy it and continue to make a contribution."

    Stevens began his court tenure as a moderate, but over time he became a leading liberal voice on the high court.  Stevens is considered the leader of the so-called four-member liberal bloc on the court, which often finds itself in the minority against the five-member conservative majority.

    Stevens wrote the dissenting opinion in the 2000 Supreme Court case that settled the disputed election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.  He also wrote the court opinion that gave terror detainees the right to go to U.S. courts to challenge their confinement at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    On domestic issues, Stevens has been a reliable vote on the court in support of abortion rights, affirmative action programs for minorities and for maintaining the separation of government and religion in several cases.  

    In his CSPAN interview last year, Stevens spoke about the factors in his life that shaped his judicial philosophy.

    "A lot of it is just the result of your reading," he said. "A lot of it is your own experiences.  I know, for example, that my experiences during World War II shaped my thinking in some cases.  I was in the Navy.  And my experiences as a practicing lawyer have had an impact on the work I've done."

    It is expected that President Obama will nominate a liberal-leaning justice to replace Justice Stevens.  That would maintain the ideological split on the high court that tends to break down five to four in favor of the court's conservative majority.

    Whoever is nominated by the president faces hearings and a confirmation vote by the U.S. Senate.  That process can become politically divisive, especially in the wake of the polarizing debate over the president's health care reform law.

    Tom Korologos is a veteran Republican lobbyist and former Senate aide who has helped several Supreme Court nominees win Senate confirmation.

    "In the early days, nominees got approved the same day they got named," said Tom Korologos. "And it has now become very contentious.  It is a function of this town in which we live.  The town has gotten very partisan."

    Democrats control 59 of the 100 Senate seats and confirmation of the next justice will require a simple majority vote.

    A presidential nominee to replace Justice Stevens is expected sometime in the next several weeks.  The president said Friday he hopes the Senate can confirm his nominee in time for the new justice to take her or his place on the court in October when the next Supreme Court term begins.

    Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying Republicans will be looking to make sure the nominee follows the principle of judicial restraint in terms of an approach to deciding constitutional cases.

    President Obama did appoint Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court last year, the first Hispanic-American elevated to the high court.  Some women's groups are already urging the president to appoint another woman to the court this year to replace Stevens.  Justice Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are the only two women on the court at present.  


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.