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April 20, 2010

ABA Committee Prepares for US Supreme Court Nomination

From the ABA Washington Letter, April 2010

The _ Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary will be evaluating the professional qualifications of the next U.S. Supreme Court nominee, who is expected to be announced shortly by President Barack Obama following Justice John Paul Stevens’ announcement April 9 that he is retiring.

The 90-year-old Stevens, appointed in 1975 by President Gerald Ford, wrote nearly 400 majority opinions and became a leader of the moderate to liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court. A native of Chicago, Stevens served in the Navy during World War II and earned his law degree from Northwestern University. He established an antitrust law practice in Chicago and was selected by President Richard Nixon to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Ford nominated him to replace Justice William O. Douglas on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was confirmed by a 98-0 Senate vote.

In a letter to Stevens, ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm expressed her “profound gratitude” for his leadership on the U.S. Supreme Court and his “longstanding commitment to making our nation’s constitutional protections meaningful.”

“I applaud the tremendous impact you have had on our nation’s law, access to justice and civil rights and civil liberties for all,” she wrote.

Obama is expected to announce a nominee within the next few weeks. “While we cannot replace Justice Stevens’ experience or wisdom, I will seek someone in the coming weeks with similar qualities—an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people,” he said during remarks April 9 at the White House. The nomination will be the second U.S. Supreme Court appointment for the president, who last year selected Justice Sonya Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

Once the nomination is announced, the 15-member standing committee, chaired by Dallas lawyer Kim Askew, will initiate its peer-evaluation of the nominee’s professional qualifications. The standing committee uses three key factors to assess professional qualifications: integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament.

Each member of the standing committee participates in the evaluation, and confidential interviews are conducted nationwide of hundreds of lawyers, judges and other leaders who are in a position to assess the nominee’s professional qualifications. Two teams of distinguished law school professors examine the nominee’s legal writings for quality, clarity, knowledge of the law and analytical ability. A national team of leading practicing lawyers with experience practicing before the U.S. Supreme Court also examines the legal writings of the nominee. Each team submits a summary of its findings to the full standing committee for its consideration in evaluating the nominee.

After the nominee is interviewed, a confidential formal report detailing every component of the evaluation is assembled. Each standing committee member will review the report and rate the nominee as “well qualified,” qualified,” or “not qualified.” The rating is conveyed to the White House, the Department of Justice, each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the nominee.

The standing committee submits a detailed written statement to the Senate committee explaining the reasons for its rating and traditionally is invited to testify at the nominee’s confirmation hearing.

The ABA Washington Letter is a monthly publication produced by the ABA Governmental Affairs Office to report and analyze congressional and executive branch action on legislative issues of interest to the ABA and the legal profession. The newsletter highlights ABA involvement in the federal legislative process and focuses on the association’s legislative and governmental priorities and other issues on which the ABA has policy.
Learn More About:  Federal Judiciary - Supreme Court