No Retirement for Supreme Court Justices

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In the last two years both Justice David Souter and Justice John Paul Stevens reported their plans to leave the high court soon after hearing the final arguments for the term but this year seems to be different. If nobody opts to retire this year, it is unlikely that any justices will step down until after the 2012 presidential election.

The two who are most likely to retire are Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer but both have stated that they have no plans to do so. Ginsburg is 78 years and has served for nearly 18 years, while 72 year old Breyer has served for 17 years. Ginsburg has made it clear that she intends to serve another four years, while Breyers has stated that he is not considering retirement in the immediate future either.

Due to the fact that federal judges are appointed for life, they have the ability to time their retirement strategically thus ensuring that the current president will fill their position with someone with comparable political or judicial views. Therefore, now would be an opportune time for liberal justices, such as Ginsburg and Breyer to step down because Obama would likely be responsible for naming their replacements. Considering their length of service and ages, Ginsburg and Breyer will most likely serve on the bench for a few more years, at best. Therefore, if a Republican president takes office in 2012, they may be forced to retire before another liberal-leaning president comes into office, thus effectively giving their seats to more conservative justices.

It is unlikely that conservative members of the high court, such as Justice Antonin Scalia, 75, and Anthony Kennedy, 74, will step down while Obama is in office.

With Supreme Court arguments finished until fall, the justices are now focused on rolling out opinions on the 43 cases that have not yet been resolved. The oldest of these is a case that disputes a California law that limits the sale of violent video games to children. This case was heard in early November of 2010. Other undecided cases include a large sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a lawsuit against power plants that contribute to greenhouse gases, and the imprisonment of a US citizen who has alleged terrorist connections but has not committed a verifiable crime. The court is expected to be finished by the end of June.

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