How Obama Will Replace Souter

“Many American presidents have been lawyers, but almost none have come to office with Barack Obama’s knowledge of the Supreme Court,” Jodi Kantor writes in today’s New York Times. Who should we expect him to choose to replace David Souter? “ “[N]ot a larger-than-life liberal to counter the conservative pyrotechnics of Justice Antonin Scalia, but a careful pragmatist with a limited view of the role of courts.” According to Kantor, “Mr. Obama believes the court must never get too far ahead of or behind public sentiment” and “he has almost always disappointed those who expected someone in his position—he was Harvard’s first black law review president and one of the few minority members of the University of Chicago’s law faculty—to side consistently with liberals.” Not surprising to people who follow his politics closely, Kantor says Obama is more than anything else a “pragmatist” with “an unwillingness to deal in abstraction, a constant desire to know how court decisions affect people’s lives.”