According to the Washington Post President Obama may have the chance to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. This time it has come from a reliable source. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a question and answer session among law students made the a vague statement suggesting the possibility.
Justice Ginsburg, soon to be 76, is recovering from cancer surgery. However, Justice Ginsburg is not the oldest serving Justice. Justice John Paul Stevens will soon be 89 years old and one has to wonder how much longer he will be able to serve. While age is not an indication of one's capacity to work, it does become a factor. A vacancy on the Court this early could be an advantage to the the new Obama Administration. With the Senate at a new high of 58, soon to be 59, Democratic members could provide the possibility of an easy nomination process. Obama would not have to worry about pleasing Republican moderates to obtain a confirmation.
The question now is, of course, who will be leaving and who could possibly be nominated. The two best possibilities are Justice Stevens or Justice Ginsburg. However, Justice Ginsberg also commented on Justice Souter's failure to hire new law clerks and his dislike of Washington. Justice Souter does prefer his home in New Hampshire to the highly charged political life of Washington. This would be the surprise resignation as Justice Sourter is younger and in beter health than Justices Ginsburg or Stevens.
Who could be the possible nominees? First, Governor Jennifer Grandholm from Michigan. Grandholm was elected Attorney General of Michigan in 1998 and then Governor in 2002. There are term limits in Michigan and she is midway through her last term. In addition, she may not be that controversial given her crossover potential in Michigan. Another possibility would be former Maine Senator George Mitchell. As the architect of the peace in Northern Ireland, shaky as it might be, he manged to get the parties to at lease agree to cease fire. Also a former Senate Majority leader, he still has some political connections that may be pushing for him. Despite the fact that Mitchell may be as old as the people he is replacing, he would be a good justice. However, the President will probably want to pick someone a bit younger. Also, the President is still early in his term of office and has much clout. Hence, he still has much goodwill on Capitol Hill. A nomination of this sort is what many in political scientists call a "place holder" nomination. Mitchell would be a nominee that would hold the place until the political environment was more amenable to a stronger choice. I would say if a nominee of this sort would signify that that the Obama Adminsitration may not be willing to go into political battle with the reiligous right, as yet.