The Stevens Resignation Is Not Contingent Upon the Confirmation of a Successor
The Above the Law blog has posted what purports to be a letter from Associate Justice John Paul Stevens to President Obama announcing the Justice’s resignation.
Interestingly, the resignation is not contingent upon the successor’s confirmation and appointment. “I shall retire from regular active service as an Associate Justice, under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 371(b), effective the next day after the Court rises for the summer recess this year.” (emphasis added).
That means the Court will operate at eight justices if no successor is confirmed and appointed in time for October with the “liberal” bloc of the Court down a vote.
Update: Over at the New Yorker news desk, Jeffrey Toobin thinks this non-contingent method of resignation was intended to aid President Obama in timely securing a replacement. In 1968, Chief Justice Earl Warren resigned contingent upon his successor’s confirmation (the same technique used by O’Connor, among others). I assume that Chief Justice Warren also intended to benefit President LBJ by providing a parachute should the Fortas confirmation fail (as it did). Who is right, Stevens or Warren? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Which helps a President more, contingent resignation or an unconditional resignation?