Last month, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens made news when he told The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin that he planned to retire during the current presidential term (meaning before January 2013) and that he would likely make a decision this month, in April, about exactly when he plans to leave. When other news outlets got essentially the same quotes from Stevens over the weekend, the old story cycled anew, buoyed by the lack of any real news during the long holiday weekend.
Forgive me for being sluggish about again joining the parlor game. If the Justice decides he wants out now -- and, really, as he nears age 90 can you blame him? -- we'll all have plenty of time to cull through all of the various lists of his potential successors. Indeed, having just undertaken this guessing game last summer in the run-up to the Sonia Sotomayor nomination and confirmation, it's fairly clear that President Obama's list will include few surprises. Wood. Kagan. Granholm. We've heard those names before. The president had plenty of solid candidates to choose from in 2009, and he'll have plenty to choose from again in 2010 if and when he needs to.
And if Justice Stevens decides he wants to go one more year-- you just never know -- all of this navel-gazing will have been for naught. Instead of predicting who'll get the nod this time, let me instead spend two minutes talking about the politics of the matter.