Chances are Obama selects someone like himself – calm, smart, and thoughtful, Mr. West adds. Note that "fire-breathing liberal" does not appear in that list. As president of the Harvard Law Review in the early '90s, Obama was known for being fair to all sides, to the point where people of disparate views sometimes thought he agreed with them.
In a surprise appearance during the White House’s press briefing Friday, Obama made the first formal announcement of Souter’s decision to retire. “I just got off the telephone with Justice Souter, and so I would like to say a few words about his decision to retire from the Supreme Court,” Obama said.
After praising the justice’s work ethic and integrity, Obama outlined how he intends to select Souter’s replacement. “I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives – whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation,” he said. “I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.”
He added, “As I make this decision, I intend to consult with members of both parties, across the political spectrum.”
The president said he hoped a new Supreme Court justice could be sworn in by the beginning of the new term in October.
The name long floated as front-runner for Obama's first pick is Elena Kagan, 49, former dean of Harvard Law School, who was confirmed as the nation's first female solicitor general on March 19. The Senate vote was 61 to 31.