Liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced on Friday that he would step down at the end of this term, giving President Obama a second chance to shape the high court.
In a letter to President Obama, Justice Stevens, who turns 90 later this month, said he will step down in the summer to give time for his successor to be confirmed by the Senate "well in advance of the commencement of the court’s next term" which starts in October.
President Obama’s first nomination for the court came last year when he nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic to be named to the high court, to replace the retiring Justice David Souter.
Among the leading candidates to replace Stevens are Solicitor General Elena Kagan and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland and Diane Wood.
As was the case with the Sotomayor selection, replacing Stevens is unlikely to change the ideological make-up of the court with Obama likely adding another liberal to the court.
Currently, the court has four strong conservatives – Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia – and four liberals—Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sotomayor and Stevens. Justice Anthony Kennedy is often seen as a swing vote.
Stevens was one of the longest-tenured justices in Supreme Court history, serving on the bench since being appointed by President Ford in 1975.