Stevens' Exit Would Break Court Tradition

Tradition sees justices sticking with party that appointed them
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2009 2:11 PM CDT
FILE - In this Thursday, July 19, 2007 picture, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens comments on the court at the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference in Honolulu.   (AP Photo/Lucy Pemoni)
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(Newser) – Supreme Court justices have traditionally waited to retire until a member of the same party that nominated them held the presidency, writes Kate Klonick for True/Slant. The custom has prevailed even when the justice’s ideology drifted away from that party. But if the rumors about John Paul Stevens’ imminent retirement are true, the Obama presidency may signal a new trend in “activist” retirement.

Bush 41 appointee David Souter emerged as a liberal and retired under President Obama—ensuring that a liberal would replace him. If Stevens, a Gerald Ford nominee, "retires now, it will make two justices in a row who clearly held out longer than they wanted so that the President in office would be closer to their ideology rather than the party of the president who nominated them," Klonick writes.