Bench Memos

Many Happy Returns

Amidst all the other news of the week, I let John Paul Stevens’ 89th birthday go right by me.  (It was Monday.)  As Robert Barnes of the Washington Post reports, Stevens is on course to set two records.  If he serves until at least February 24, 2011, he will pass the mark set by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. for the oldest serving justice.  If he serves until mid-July 2012, he will break the record of William O. Douglas (whose seat Stevens filled) as longest-serving justice.

I want Justice Stevens to go the distance here.  Really, I do, and not just because I like to see records fall.  If he makes it until the mid-summer of 2012 (and still later would be better), the chances improve that Stevens will be replaced by a Republican challenger who defeats Barack Obama that fall.  Even with Obama still in office in the final months of 2012, a good case could be made in the Senate for not letting him fill a vacancy while the election hangs in the balance–let alone as a lame duck.

Of course, it would be better still if Stevens hung on until 2013.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t take until 2017 to get the White House back.  By then Stevens would be pushing 97.  And even for such a dedicated Republican appointee, that would be a strain.

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