Since the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Souter’s impending retirement, there has been much speculation online as to who President Obama might choose to replace him. Worth noting are comments from Obama himself during his surprise appearance at Friday’s white house press briefing. Video below, bolding is mine.
“Throughout his two decades on the Supreme Court, Justice Souter has shown what it means to be a fair-minded and independent judge. He came to the bench with no particular ideology. He never sought to promote a political agenda. And he consistently defied labels and rejected absolutes, focusing instead on just one task -- reaching a just result in the case that was before him.
He approached judging as he approaches life, with a feverish work ethic and a good sense of humor, with integrity, equanimity and compassion -- the hallmark of not just being a good judge, but of being a good person.
I am incredibly grateful for his dedicated service. I told him as much when we spoke. I spoke on behalf of the American people thanking him for his service. And I wish him safe travels on his journey home to his beloved New Hampshire and on the road ahead.
Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.
I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded, and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.
As I make this decision, I intend to consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum. And it is my hope that we can swear in our new Supreme Court Justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October when the Court's new term begins.”
While Republicans are focusing on the usual canard when it comes to judicial appointments --- “he/she/it is going to legislate from the bench”, let’s just clear that up right now and get on with speculation as to WHOM he might select.
A judge is obligated to consider not just the law, but the facts surrounding a particular issue. Those right wingers who want to interpret the Constitution by strict word-for-word literalism, just like many of you do with the Bible, don't have a fundamental understanding of the foundation of our legal system. To be specific….
Our legal system, like most systems in those nations which were originally English colonies, is based primarily on the system of common law. That means much of our law is based upon the principle of stare decisis, or a system of judicially decided precedent law. Our Constitution is a framework in light of our common law background, which was intended to organize our federal system and through the Bill of Rights as a list of limits on the power of the federal government. It was not designed as an exclusive and literal list of only those things that the federal government could do. If that were the case, it would have been in conflict with the existing framework of English common law which formed the balance of laws and legal theory during that period in our early history.
Currently, our law is based upon the framework of the Constitution, supplemented by common law, statutory law at both state and federal levels, and administrative regulations.