Update II: Radar retracted the story a few minutes ago:

RadarOnline.com has obtained new information that Justice Roberts will NOT resign. The justice will be staying on the bench.

Nice work, Radar.  Original post follows …

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According to Radar Online, the next Supreme Court justice to step down won’t be John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg after all.  Claiming an exclusive scoop from unnamed sources, they say that the next resignation will be that of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts — which would allow Barack Obama to significantly change the tenor of the nation’s top court:

John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, is seriously considering stepping down from the nation’s highest court for personal reasons, RadarOnline.com has learned exclusively.

Roberts, known for his conservative judicial philosophy, has served on the Supreme Court  since 2005, having been nominated by President George W. Bush after the death of former Chief William Rehnquist.

RadarOnline.com has been told that Roberts, 55, could announce his decision at any time.

If true, this would be nothing short of an apocalypse for conservatives.  George Bush appointed Roberts at the age of 50, which gave the Right some comfort in the probability that Roberts would remain on the job for at least a couple of decades.  An early retirement would mean a lost opportunity to maintain conservative consistency from the Supreme Court.

Until now, we had considered Obama’s potential SCOTUS appointments more or less as a push.  With Stevens approaching 90 and Ginsburg reportedly in poor health, Obama seemed to only have the opportunity to replace liberal justices with equally liberal appointments.  If Roberts steps down, it immediately changes the balance of the court.  It would take a conservative President years just to reset the balance to today’s status quo.

The question is whether Radar’s sourcing will hold up.  Conservatives will be praying that it won’t.   For Roberts to step down now, one would have to assume a very serious illness or family matter arose that absolutely would keep him from fulfilling his duties.  We’ll see shortly.

Update: Drudge has a quote from a court source that says, “This is not happening … It’s news to me.”