President Obama said today that he “has no abortion litmus test” in selecting a replacement for Justice John Paul Stevens and that he “wants to make sure any nominee he picks respects individual rights, including women’s rights,” reports the New York Times.
Of course, we hope that any Justice at this point respects women’s rights as much as anyone else’s rights, and all individuals’ rights, but sadly, we guess it’s not a guarantee.
In response to a reporter’s question, Mr. Obama reiterated his support for abortion rights, but said he would follow the time-honored answer of presidents from both parties in saying that no single issue would determine his selection.
Of course, all that doesn’t matter very much if his top nominees come out strongly in favor of abortion rights anyway.
Another interesting issue that no one wants to (openly) discuss — and for which litmus testing would be strongly discouraged — is religion. The Court currently consists of six Catholics and two Jews. Justice Stevens is the Court’s lone Protestant.
About 10 nominees are currently being considered, with the top three (and some salient details) as follows:
Elena Kagan is the solicitor general of the United States and former dean of Harvard Law School. She’s a mere 49, which means she could serve for a significant amount of time. She’s Jewish and she supports abortion rights (along with women’s and “individual’s” rights). She’s controversial for her strong opinions, including her support of Harvard’s longstanding policy of barring the military from recruiting on campus because of the armed forces’ refusal to end discrimination against gay men and women.
Merrick Garland, 57, has been a federal judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1997. Prior to that he served as a prosecutor in the criminal division of the Justice Department. He went to Harvard for undergrad and law school. He’s Jewish, and he’s considered the least controversial of the picks, with the most moderate stance — he lacks the other two nominees’ strong abortion-rights records. And, obviously, he’s a man.
Diane Wood, 59, is a federal judge on the Illinois-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She got her undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Texas, which means she would replace Justice Stevens as the Court’s only non-Ivy-Leaguer, as well as in terms of being a Protestant. She is an outspoken supporter of abortion rights and the right to same-sex marriage.
Obama plans to announce his decision by late May. Justice John Paul Stevens, who turned 90 yesterday, is retiring at the end of the current court term early this summer.