Late today, President Obama said he intended to pick a replacement for Justice David Souter who has a "sharp and independent" mind and can balance "empathy" with honoring "our constitutional traditions."
Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.
I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded, and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.
As I make this decision, I intend to consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum. And it is my hope that we can swear in our new Supreme Court Justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October when the Court's new term begins.
Appointed by George H.W. Bush, Souter became a reliable liberal vote on the court and posited himself as an advocate of a constitution that breathes and whose principles are to be informed by modern facts and evidence. He is known by legal scholars as a moderate, but he votes often with the liberal wing. Conservatives hate him.
By all accounts, Mr. Souter was not terribly pleased with the prospect of spending the remainder of his active life on the court. He will return to quiet New Hampshire.
Let's face facts: there are many qualified center-left jurists who are women. Obama will be under enormous pressure to name a woman to replace Mr. Souter, especially given the illness of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Justice John Paul Stevens is 89.