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President Obama has gone on the record concerning the type of Justice he would like to replace Justice David Souter when he retires in June. The President will appoint someone who combines "empathy and understanding" with an unassailable legal background, and many legal commentators are suggesting that the pick will be a woman, a Latino or perhaps both. The goal is to have the new Justice confimed and on the bench when the next session opens on the first Monday in October.

A Democrat has not had a chance to appoint a Supreme Court Justice for 15 years, so this is a significant opportunity for those who would like to see the Court begin a change in course from the conservative direction it has been heading for years. Souter, however, was appointed by a Republican, the first President Bush, but his voting record did not turn out as conservative as had been hoped. Robert Barnes, writing for the Washinton Post, argues that Justice Souter was no ‘home run for conservatives.’ Early on, Justice Souter surprised conservatives with his vote in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which preserved abortion rights in a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade. That vote was followed by a record that reflects support for programs addressing segregation and discrimination, gay rights and affirmative action. He also voted to restrict the death penalty.

Names being dicussed by pundits include U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo of Chicago, Leah Ward Sears, Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick, and U.S. Appeals Courts Judges Kim McLane Wardlaw, Sandra Lea Lynch, Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Pamela Wood. Regardless of who ultimately takes the bench, this changing of the guard appears to represent a positive change for "the little guy," including those injured in accidents, by pharmaceuticals and other dangerouse products and medical malpractice.

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