Justice Souter retiring from high court

May 1, 2009 (WASHINGTON) Many names are already surfacing to replace him, including several people with Chicago connections.

As a former constitutional law professor, President Obama is expected to take an active role in the process to nominate a successor to the soon-to-be-retired David Souter.

Former University of Chicago Law School Dean Geoffrey Stone served on the same faculty as Obama.

"My sense is that just because of his experience as someone who is well versed in constitutional law and having taught it for a long time, he brings much more independent knowledge to this task than most presidents would, " Stone told ABC7 Chicago over the telephone.

Justice Souter, who is 69 years old, was appointed to the Supreme Court 19 years ago by then-President George H.W. Bush. When he steps down later this year, he'll leave the high court with only one female member, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who underwent cancer surgery last year.

That's why John Marshall law Prof. Ann Lousin is, as she put it, "Seventy to 90 percent" convinced Obama will nominate a female jurist.

"He'd be hard put to say, 'I couldn't find a really good woman lawyer between the ages of 40 and 60,'" said Lousin.

Among the locally connected replacement possibilities are U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who, like Obama, once taught at the University of Chicago. Other possibilities are two seventh circuit federal appeals court judges: Diane Wood, a current Univ. of Chicago lecturer, and Ann C. Williams, who was first appointed to the federal courts during the second Reagan administration.

"I don't think he could do any better than Anne Williams. I don't know any of the other candidates, but she would be an excellent candidate," Lousin said.

Because the president was so connected to the legal academic, some experts predict he will nominate a jurist with a teaching background and someone he knows personally.

Stone said Judge Diane Wood would fit those criteria.

"Someone whose judicial philosophy is, I would say, moderate liberal, something like a Ginsburg, which I suspect Obama is looking for," Stone said.

The president said Friday he wants Justice Souter's replacement seated by October, which is only five months from now.

It's a widely accepted belief among those who watch the Supreme Court that Barack Obama could name as many as three new justices during his first term in office.

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