Commentary: High court nominees deserve a quick hearing and vote

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramApril 9, 2010 

Justice John Paul Stevens hasn't even retired yet and already there's talk about Senate Republicans filibustering President Barack Obama's next Supreme Court nominee.

Could we back up for just a minute and take a breath?

Stevens, who turns 90 on April 20, is the oldest and longest-serving of the court's members. He was nominated by President Gerald Ford, a Republican, in 1975 but is often pegged in media shorthand as the leader of the court's "liberal wing," a description that doesn't do justice to his nuanced, not always predictable, sometimes eclectic views.

His departure would give Obama a second high-court appointment in two years. (Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the first.)

Stevens recently told major publications that he was mulling retirement in the next couple of years.

That set off the flurry of speculation and jostling for political advantage that Beltway insiders do so well.

On Fox News Sunday, Senate Judiciary Committee member Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who became a Democrat last year after 43 years in the GOP, said Stevens should wait because gridlock could cause a Republican filibuster in this election year.

Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican who's also on the Judiciary Committee, said on the same program that the response will depend on "what kind of person" is nominated, then cautioned that Obama should not nominate someone "with preconceived attitudes" or an "overly ideological person."

Reality check: Any lawyer or judge with the brainpower and self-assurance to occupy one of nine seats on the highest court in the land is going to have some preconceived notions about the law. He or she has thought deeply about the Constitution and the judiciary's role in the grand scheme.

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