It certainly appears possible. Jan Crawford Greenburg reports:
Talk about ending the summer with a bang! The AP’s Mark Sherman confirms today that Justice Stevens has only hired one of his four law clerks for next year, which of course is setting off widespread speculation that the 89-year-old senior justice will be leaving the Court at the end of this term.
(Remember it was Mark who reported back in April that Justice Souter hadn’t hired any of his clerks for this year. That story sprung the leak that Souter was, in fact, planning to head home to New Hampshire this summer for good.)
Stevens has shown no signs of slowing down — he’s an active questioner from the bench and appears as engaged as ever. But because of his age — and his wife’s reportedly declining health — Stevens has been the odds-on favorite as the next justice to retire. As Mark points out, he typically hires clerks well in advance — so the fact that he’s only hired one (retired justices get one law clerk, instead of four) could be a signal.
If true, this is no more reason to panic than Souter’s retirement was. Both are among the court’s staunchest liberals. Sotomayor replacing Souter was mostly a wash. On the negative side of the ledger, she is younger, more race conscious, and less bright. On the positive side, she is possibly stronger on criminal justice issues, has a history of mostly non-radical opinions (albeit with at least one glaring exception) . . . and is less bright. Yes, that’s a good thing as well as a bad thing.
Also, she’s not a weirdo who eats apple cores.
Whoever replaces Stevens — if he is retiring — will almost certainly be no more liberal than Stevens. They will be much younger, but that’s what you get when you elect a President.
I predicted Sotomayor, but I can’t handicap this one. Any ideas? The time to speculate is now!