Skip to comments.'tis the season for a Supreme Court retirement (vanity)
Posted on 06/29/2006 8:54:45 PM PDT by dangus
As the Supreme Court wraps up its session, there has been so far fairly little attention paid to the fact that this is when U.S. Supreme Court retirements are typically announced. All of the last 14 retirements were announced between May 14th and October 1st of their respective years; the last to retire outside of those dates was Charles Whittaker, whose doctor ordered him to retire on account of a worsening disability making it impossible for him to sit at his bench. Of those 14, 9 announced their retirement between June 12 and August 3rd, a space of only seven weeks.
(That includes Sandra Day O'Connor, who announced her retirement on July 1st, pending her replacement. Just as her replacement was to be named in early September, Chief Justice William Renquist died, and her replacement was instead chosen to replace him. She finally left the court on January 31st of the following year.)
Given the recent drama in replacing Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice Renquist, one might expect that there will now be a lull. There is no reason to expect that there will be. Liberal John Paul Stevens is 86 years old, and while there is no reason to expect him to be true to his word, given his history of contradictory rulings, he did claim he would retire under a Republican president. He is older than any of his colleagues on the court ever were; Harry Blackmun was the oldest, about 5 months youner. On the other hand, he might want to break some records, such as Oliver Wendell Holmes' record for oldest serving justice, or William O. Douglas' record for longest term. He is almost 3 years, and 4 years short of those marks, respectively. If he isn't out to meet some personal goal, history suggests he will soon retire; his longevity and age are both statistical outliers already.
The next most likely to retire is Liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has faced health struggles. God forbid anyone think I'm routing for her to fall ill; her ailments seem safely in the past. But such battles do age people, and, at 73 years old, she is in the prime years for a Supreme Court Justice to retire.
It is not unthinkable that conservative Antonin Scalia might want to step down while President Bush is still in office; he is already 70. Center-left judge Anthony Kennedy, and liberals Steven Breyer and David Souter are also past government retirement age, at nearly 70, 68 and 67 years old.
These are the ages of each current justice:
John Paul Stevens, 86 years, 2 months
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 73 years, 3 months
x-Antonin Scalia, 70 years, 3 months
Anthony Kennedy, 69 years, 11 months
Steven Breyer, 67 years, 10 months
David Souter, 66 years, 9 months
x-Clarence Thomas, 58 years, 0 months
x-Samuel Alito, 56 years, 2 months
x-John Roberts, 51 years, 6 months
These are the ages of some of the recent judges who retired very late:
Harry Blackmun, 85 years, 9 months
Thurgood Marshall, 83 years, 2 months
x-William Renquist, 80 years, 11 months
Lewis Powell, 79 years, 9 months
Warren Burger, 79 years, 0 months
x-Byron White, 76 years, 0 months
Sandra Day O'Connor, 75 years, 10 months
These are the retirement dates of the last fourteen justices to retire:
Abe Fortas, May 14th
Tom Clark, June 12th
Earl Warren, June 23rd
Lewis Powell, June 26th
Byron White, June 28th
Sandra Day O'Connor: Announced July 1st, postponed until January 31st due to Renquist's death
Potter Stewart, July 3rd
William Brennan, July 20th
Arthur Goldberg, July 25th
Harry Blackmun, August 3rd
William Renquist: September 3rd (died in office)
John Harlan, September 23rd
Warren Burger, September 26th
Thurgood Marshall, October 1
forgot the footnote:
x-indicates a conservative
John Paul Stevens is senile and should be removed from the court. It's disgusting the guy is actually still on the court.
If it's not announced tomorrow, I doubt it will happen this year.
If there is a retirement I think the odds are:
Everyone else: 0%
Do you actually believe he is senile? Why do you say that? Just because he is old and has lost contact with reality? Yes, it is disgusting he is on the court, but because of his positions, not his health... unless there's some news or speculation you'd like to share...
I will never forget watching Alito's wife crying as her husband was trashed by the liberal scum on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She couldn't listen to a good man get smeared by a bunch of sick and twisted crooks.
You give just one day for a retirement announcement? Why? Have you heard something, or are you just basing it on the cases coming to a close. From what I gather, it seems normal for a judge to consider awhile after the session's close before making a decision public.
PLEASE FOLKS... SPECULATE AWAY, BUT GIVE REASONS FOR YOUR SPECULATIONS!
Yes - it's very public knowledge that he falls asleep during session, mixes up one case from another and quite often gets confused during arguments. That to me is senile.
(Yet I did post this because of the current time.)
I believe you, but do you have a source? I would say that he is unfit to serve if he sleeps during the presentation of a case. They are only 1 hour long; it's not like a Congressional hearing which can last for hours.
My speculation is based on past history* (end of session), plus Hugh Hewitt saying it would be Thursday if it happened at all. I've extended Thursday (now past) to include Friday.
After Friday, I see no reason to drag it out...
*Sure, O'Connor waited a bit, but that was to see if Renquist would go first, had he, she'd probably have waited another year.
I was a little young at the time but I'm not sure I'd call Fortas' departure a retirement. He was one step ahead of impeachment. Of all the justices - I'd say that Goldberg was the strageest situation - retiring from SCOTUS to become UN Ambassador? There had to be something behind the scenes that explains the move better.
Seems like kind of a crappy, self centered reason to want to remain on the court at 86.
Yeah, but Stevens is a crappy, self-centered guy, no?
For those who don't wish to wade through as much banter:
There are various rumors of very dubious authenticity that there IS indeed an upcoming vacancy:
Specter and Hatch both referred to three vacancies a year ago. Did they know something? Probably not. The press had made "three vacancies" a cliche' in the 2000 and 2004 elections.
A guy named "Insider" posted on confirm them claiming insider knowledge of Stevens' retirement. There is no reason to believe him.
Apparently, there have been for a few months rumors that Stevens or Souter gave Bush notice that they'd retire at the end of the session. Again, completely unsubstantiated.
That said, something about Souter's retirement rings plausible. Bush, Sr. did appoint him; he claimed to be a conservative, and he does have some Bush-connection loyalties. But that's not it. There is zero logical reason I can come up with the expect Souter's retirement, but my hunch alarm is ringing loudly.
It's widely speculated that Ginsberg is crassly partisan and would have to be taken away in a box before she'd retire. Stevens and Souter are both less partisan, coming from Republican backgrounds.
Stevens is in fantastic health, and vain, but his wife is ill and he has already moved to Florida to care for her, which is not a pleasant commute.
I'd give it about these odds, for each person retiring this summer:
Stevens: about 35%
Souter: about 15%
Ginsberg: about 5%
Scalia: about 5%
Breyer: less than 5%
Kennedy: less than 5%
Alito, Roberts, Thomas: not plausible
Total chance of any retirement: 50%. (less than the sum of each possibility, because of small chance of more than one retirement.)
One last note (this from my own mind): The USSC has been extremely reticent, according to news reports, to take on many cases for the next term, or to confront big issues. Could this be because Roberts expects a retirement NEXT YEAR?
Imagine the "treat" it must be to overturn a previous decision by the "new guy" who got the position you secretly yearned for all these years.
This is their big chance. The "anti-trubunals" justices know that, in some future rulings, Roberts will be pointing out the idiotic flaws in their previous decisions.
If someone is retiring, this could be their parting shot.
Stevens: about 35%The USSC has been extremely reticent, according to news reports, to take on many cases for the next term, or to confront big issues. Could this be because Roberts expects a retirement NEXT YEAR?
Souter: about 15%
Ginsberg: about 5%
It could simply reflect the logic that the three justices most likely to retire are all members of the "gang of five" which announced yesterday that al Qaeda is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions . . . and that the retirement of at least one (and concievably even two) of them NLT next July is sufficiently probable to justify a little foot dragging this year.