WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said he plans to "certainly have somebody in place" to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter by the time the court begins its next session in October.
"It would be irresponsible if we didn't have somebody in place by the beginning of the October session," Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, told ABC's "This Week."
The Senate is scheduled to meet during most of May, June and July before breaking for a month-long summer recess in August. It plans to return Sept. 8. The new court session begins the first Monday in October.
Leahy said he would consult with members of both parties once President Barack Obama announces his choice to replace the 19-year court veteran, who said Friday he would leave at the end of the current term this summer.
Leahy, who voted for President George W. Bush's choice of Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005 but against Bush's appointment of Samuel Alito a few months later, said he will make recommendations to Obama. Only four Democrats backed Alito.
This time, Leahy said, "I've also recommended that he sit down with both the Republican and Democratic leadership and talk about this (nomination."
Leahy would not discuss precisely what he would recommend, but he said, "I would like to see certainly more women on the court. Having only one woman on the Supreme Court does not reflect the makeup of the United States."
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993, is currently the only woman on the court.
Leahy had another thought Sunday: "I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience."
Also appearing Sunday was Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, currently the senior Republican of the committee, since Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is switching to the Democratic Party.
It is not yet clear, though, that Hatch would become ranking member, because of the complex nature of determining committee seniority.
Hatch said Sunday he was concerned that Obama's call last week for empathetic judges could mean activist judges.
"He should not appoint radicals to the court and I share the view that he should appoint somebody who basically will obey the law," Hatch said.
Appointees, he added, should "not put their own policy preferences into law. And that's what bothers me about some of the comments that the president has made.
"He's bright enough to know that those comments basically indicate that politics, preferences, personal preferences and feelings, might take the place of being impartial and deciding cases based upon the law, not upon politics."
ON THE WEB
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY
McClatchy Newspapers 2009