By Kathleen Gilbert
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 9, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who became known as the leader of the left-leaning judges on the court during his 34 years of service, has announced that he plans to retire at the end of the current term in June.
Stevens, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1975 by Gerald Ford, voted to uphold Roe v. Wade in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and supports the notion that the U.S. Constitution supports a woman's “right” to abort her child.
News outlets are reporting that Stevens, 89, sent a letter to President Obama Friday saying he will step down.
Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, lauded Stevens as “among the strongest supporters of the right to choose currently serving on the Supreme Court, and his retirement serves as yet another stark reminder of the important role the court plays in our everyday lives.”
Commenting on the retirement, President Obama lauded Stevens for having “worn the judicial robe with honor and humility.” “He has applied the Constitution and the laws of the land with fidelity and restraint,” said Obama.
“Even if Justice Stevens' liberalism has led to many decisions I oppose, I respect his devotion to the institution and the gentlemanly manner in which he always carried out his work,” commented Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
An announcement is expected from the White House soon regarding a nomination to replace Stevens. Several observers expect President Obama to be considering a relatively short list of likely candidates: Elena Kagan, solicitor general of the United States, Diane Wood of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, and Merrick Garland of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Kagan is a strong supporter of partial-birth abortion and abortion on demand.
Other possibilities include: Cass Sunstein, a former Harvard Law professor and current administrator of Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; Kathleen Sullivan, a constitutional law professor at Stanford University and open lesbian; Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano; Yale law professor Harold Koh; and Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan.
Liberty Council founder Matthew Staver commented that, “As Chief Justice John Roberts said during his confirmation hearings, judges ought to be umpires who simply call the balls and strikes. They ought not play in the game or change the rules.”
“The American people deserve a Supreme Court nominee who respects the rule of law and who will set aside personal bias in order to be faithful to the Constitution,” said Staver.
The retirement presents President Obama with a second opportunity to craft the membership of the Supreme Court: last year, following the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter, Obama appointed pro-abortion justice Sonia Sotomayor to fill the spot.
Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life warned of yet another battle over abortion looming with the open Supreme Court seat.
“The opening of a Supreme Court seat will again open the ongoing debate in our nation over abortion—and it well should, not because Justices are supposed to shape public policy, but because the very purpose of government is the protection of human rights, starting with life,” said Pavone. “Anyone who fails to affirm that does not belong in any public office, much less the US Supreme Court.”