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Senate judiciary chair expects confirmation of Souter replacement by October

[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website; JURIST news archive] said Sunday in an interview [transcript] with ABC that he hopes to have a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter [JURIST report] confirmed by the beginning of the Court's 2009 term in October. Leahy said, "It would be irresponsible if we didn't have somebody in place by the beginning of the October session." When asked whether he thought that President Barack Obama should nominate a woman, Leahy said:

I would like to see certainly more women on the court. Having only one woman on the Supreme Court does not reflect the makeup of the United States. I think we should have more women. We should have more minorities.

I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge...
Leahy also pledged to consult with both Democratic and Republican leadership to set a date for confirmation hearings as soon as possible after Obama announces his choice. Newly-declared Democrat Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) [official website] also indicated that he would like to see a nominee from outside the judiciary during interviews Sunday with CBS [transcript, PDF] and NBC [transcript].

Rumors of Souter's retirement began to circulate late Thursday, and were confirmed by the end of the day Friday. Souter has submitted a letter of resignation [text, PDF], and the Supreme Court has issued a press release [text, DOC] confirming his retirement. The eight other justices also issued statements [text, DOC] about Souter's retirement. Obama interrupted a press briefing [text] Friday to speak about the impending retirement [JURIST report], saying he would, "seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity." Souter, 69, was nominated to the Supreme Court by then-president George H.W. Bush and was seated in October 1990. He previously served on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Souter was viewed as one of the more liberal justices, often siding with Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

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