Andrew Cohen On Souter's Retirement

(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

As you likely know by now, Supreme Court Justice David Souter reportedly plans to retire at the end of the court's term this June.

Our Chief Legal Analyst and Legal Editor Andrew Cohen weighs in within two columns on today -- one that looks at Souter's record and the reasons he is leaving the bench, and another that floats the names of possible replacements.

Souter Will Leave A City He Never Liked

The soon-to-be-retired David Hackett Souter is proof that you can always take the boy out of the country but you can't always take the country out of the boy. ...

Instead, like fellow Republican appointees Kennedy and O'Connor (who also have been pilloried and offended by the right), he straddled the Court's middle rung of ideology. Liberals loved that because Justice Souter gave them victories they had no right to expect when he was appointed. Conservatives hated it because they couldn't count on his vote.

Guessing Game: Who Will Replace Souter?

It's been 15 years since a Democratic president got to appoint a justice. Back then, in 1994, President Bill Clinton selected a moderate liberal from the lower federal courts, Stephen Breyer, to replace the moderate conservative (and Republican appointee) Harry A Blackmun. Now, in the coming weeks, President Obama will have to decide who he wants to replace David H. Souter, another practical, left-moderate jurist, who evidently has plans to ride off in the New England sunset.

Fifteen years of frustrated Democratic nominees has caused quite a back-up of candidates. But the Obama Administration already has offered some serious clues about the sort of person they'd like to try to put onto the court. Six weeks ago, when asked about a potential Supreme Court nomination, a senior Administration official told reporters that the White House is looking for people with experience in law and in life, people with character and commitments to a community, people who can make hard decisions but still have empathy for the litigants before them.

If these job qualifications are accurate - if they aren't just spin - they suggest strongly that the President will look beyond the lower federal courts for his first selection.

You can read more of Cohen's posts in Hotsheet here.