Will O'Connor Retire at the End of the Term?
William Kristol speculates that Justice O'Connor may announce that she is stepping down in the next week. We'll know soon enough, of course, but it's worth pointing out that this would explain Justice O'Connor's apparent failure to hire a fourth law clerk for the new Term. This is just speculation, obviously, but it's possible that O'Connor hired three of her clerks before deciding to retire and then decided a) it would be unfair to fill the final slot given that she was retiring and b) she couldn't tell the three she had hired (a group that includes our own Sasha, recall) that she would be retiring, as word would get out. Stay tuned.
Why is it that Supreme Court justices feel the need to keep retirement announcements secret until the last possible moment? Is it just for the thrill of making a surprise announcement, or might there be some other reason for the practice?
6.23.2005 11:14am
A Blogger:
No, there is a good reason. The announcement stops Congress dead in its tracks, stopping everything else in Washington. If you're not retiring for a while, you want to limit the period of time in which that happens.
6.23.2005 11:29am
Ram's Law:
Haven't at least certain Justices on occasion announced their retirement to be effective on the confirmation of their successor? Would that just give too much incentive for Democrats to filibuster? Better yet, it might be just enough incentive for the majority to "cowboy up" already regading advice &consent filibusters.
6.23.2005 2:18pm
carpundit (www):
Surely I am not the only regular reader of this blog who thinks that stopping "Congress dead in its tracks" is one of the most persuasive possible arguments to advance <i>in favor</i> of something.
6.23.2005 2:20pm
My source suggest that O'Connor didn't hire a fourth clerk because she's going to take/get one of Rehnquist's.
6.23.2005 6:39pm
Dick King:
Justices wouldn't want to retire during a term because the Court often hears cases early in the term and hands down decisions late in the term. The interval from oral arguments to decision doesn't seem to cross term boundaries.

Justices would want the retirement to take effect immediately so litigants won't forum shop [in time, not in space] by choosing whether to try to get heard in the current Court or the new one.

This leads to the custom of retiring at the end of the term. There should be time to seat the new Justice by October, or at least there would be if the process weren't so damaged.

6.23.2005 8:42pm