Bombshell: Souter retiring

The rumors were swirling this afternoon and now NPR confirms. Farewell at last to Bush I’s worst mistake.

NPR has learned that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is planning to retire at the end of the court’s current term…

Souter is expected to remain on the bench until a successor has been chosen and confirmed, which may or may not be accomplished before the court reconvenes in October.

At 69, Souter is nowhere near the oldest member of the court, but he has made clear to friends for some time now that he wanted to leave Washington, a city he has never liked, and return to his native New Hampshire.

I wonder if he saved this as some sort of “100 days” gift to The One or whether he waited until the Democrats were on the brink of a filibuster-proof majority, just to make extra sure the GOP was powerless to stop his replacement. Whichever it is, needless to say, we’re at Obama’s mercy. The pick will almost certainly be a woman — at 48, Elena Kagan is young and the frontrunner as Solicitor General although Sonia Sotomayor’s name has been kicked around too — but beyond that, the sky’s the limit. The only “good” news is that Souter was one of the most reliably liberal votes on the Court. Barry O would have to appoint an out-and-out socialist, practically, to tilt it further left.

Update: As noted in the comments, Specter is on the Judiciary Committee that will quiz Souter’s replacement. He voted no on Bork in 1987. Think he’ll have the stones to oppose this one if he/she’s too “radical” given that his reelection prospects are squarely in Obama’s hands?