President Obama will soon choose a Supreme Court justice to replace Justice David Souter, who announced plans to retire.
Souter will step down in June, at the end of the court's current term. The president said he wants a new justice when the court returns in October, which means that he will have to name a replacement over the summer.
Souter was appointed by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1990. But he soon surprised President Bush and the country by joining the court's more liberal wing. He often voted with the most liberal judge, John Paul Stevens, and two justices appointed by President Bill Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Souter, who is 69 years old, is young compared to some of the justices, but he has long complained about having to live in Washington instead of his cabin in New Hampshire. He even told friends last year that if Obama won the election, he would be the first to retire.
Souter was known as a moderate judge. He voted in favor of abortion rights in the 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood case and a ban on the recital of religious prayers at graduation ceremonies.
He voted against the death penalty for juvenile offenders and for people who are mentally retarded, dramatically limiting the scope of capital punishment in this country.
Liberals loved that Justice Souter gave them unexpected victories. Conservatives hated that they couldn't count on his vote.
"Justice Souter has shown what it means to be a fair-minded and independent judge. He came to the bench with no particular ideology; he never sought to promote a political agenda." - President Barack Obama
"To ask you what principles you would employ does not in any way tell me how you would rule on a specific facts situation." - then-Senator Joseph Biden
"I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time." - President Barack Obama
"I just hope that the President Obama will appoint somebody who will observe the law and interpret the laws that are made by those who are elected to make them, rather than do what he said he was going to do during the campaign, which was to get political activists on the court." Senator Orrin Hatch, R - Utah
1. What are some laws that affect your life?
2. What does the Supreme Court do?
3. How does the Supreme Court affect American values and culture?
1. Why do you think David Souter is retiring?
2. What factors do you think President Obama is considering as he chooses a replacement?
3. President Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago- how do you think that affects his approach to the law and to the Supreme Court?
4. What experience and traits do you think are important for a Supreme Court justice?
5. Use this lesson plan to explore how the Supreme Court affects your life.
and these lesson plans to look at the confirmation process