Rachel Maddow broke the news on Thursday, April 30th that Justice David Souter was stepping down from the Court.
SCOTUS Blog comments on implications of Souter’s departure:
By leaving office this summer, Souter will be giving President Obama time to select and seek Senate approval of the new Chief Executive’s first appointee to the Nation’s highest court before the Court returns for a new Term on Oct. 5. That process could be slowed, however, if the President chooses a nominee who stirred strong opposition among conservatives. With Democrats in control of the Senate, however, Obama’s choice almost certainly would win approval.
New York Times assesses what replacing Souter means and does not mean and who is on the short list:
Replacing Justice Souter with a liberal would not change the basic makeup of the court, where he and three other justices hold down the left wing against a conservative caucus of four justices. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate Republican appointee, often provides the swing vote that controls important decisions.
White House officials contacted Thursday night declined to comment. But Mr. Obama and his team have been thinking for a long time about whom he might put on the court. Among the people whose names have been floated in recent months are Elena Kagan, whom Mr. Obama named as his solicitor general, and two federal appeals court judges, Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Pamela Wood.
Justice Souter, 69, has been the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks because his discontent in Washington has been no secret. He was the only justice who had not hired clerks for the fall term.