Should A Justice Consider Who Will Appoint His Successor? And If So, Should The Justice Admit Everyone

April 20th, 2014

During his interview on This Week, Justice Stevens said that a Justice should consider who is appointing his successor, but that he didn’t. Here is the full transcript, which I did not have before:

Reporter: When justice Stevens retired in 2010, he was replaced by Elena Kagan. A solid vote on the court’s liberal bloc. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resisting calls from liberals who want her to step down this year. Is that something that you think justices should consider as they’re making that decision?

Stevens: Well, I didn’t consider it.

Reporter: You didn’t?

Stevens: Lot of people think you did, no politics at all in your decision? My decision wasn’t made for any political reason whatsoever, it was the concern about my own health.

Reporter: [Is that] Something that justices should take into account?

Stevens: I think so. I think it’s an appropriate thing to think about, your successor not only in this job, I just finished Reading the book by former secretary Gates, he thought a lot about his successor. You’re interested in the job and the kind of work that’s done, you have to have an interest in who’s going to fill your shoes.

Reporter: If she [Justice Ginsburg] asked for your advice?

Stevens: I would say, she doesn’t need my advice. She really doesn’t.

Reporter: Very wise.

Stevens: It’s interesting, because she asked my advice when she became the senior associate justice. And I gave her the same answer.

This bit was picked up by AP. I was stunned by Stevens’s forthrightness on the political nature of his retirement (though he claims that did not motivate him). On Facebook I was reminded that Justice Scalia made similar comments during an interview:

WALLACE: You are 76 years old. Will you time your retirement so that a more conservative president can appoint a like-minded justice?

SCALIA: I don’t know. I haven’t decided when to retire.

WALLACE: But I mean, does it go through your mind, if I retire, I’d like to see, since you talk about Republicans appointing one kind of justice and Democrats another, that you would want somebody who would adhere to your view, as in your book “Reading Law”?

SCALIA: No, of course, I would not like to be replaced by someone who immediately sets about undoing everything that I’ve tried to do for 25 years, 26 years, sure. I mean, I shouldn’t have to tell you that. Unless you think I’m a fool.

Did Scalia and Stevens say the same thing? Nino somewhat dodged the question, but I think they are on the same wavelength here.

Also, I’ve read that Justice O’Connor wanted to ensure a Republican replaced her, and that Justice Souter wanted to wait out President Bush.

The appointment process is politicized enough as it is. We don’t need the Justices adding to that perception.