WASHINGTON, April 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday said he will move quickly to nominate a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, promising to have a new justice seated at the high court for the court's fall term.
"I will move quickly to name a nominee," he said at the White House, after returning from Czech capital Prague for the signing of a new arms control treaty with Russia.
He said Stevens expressed to him in the letter announcing his retirement that it is in the best interests of the Supreme Court to have a successor appointed and confirmed before the next term in fall begins.
Obama said his nominee would be one who stands up to powerful interests, and who ensures the voices of ordinary people were heard.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, April 9, 2010. Obama here on Friday made a statement on the coal mine accident in West Virginia and the retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
"Powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens," he said.
The nominee would be one with "an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law, and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people."
Stevens, who turns 90 later this month, announced his retirement earlier in the day. He is the senior associate justice of the high court, and also its oldest member. He joined the court in 1975 after being nominated by President Gerald Ford. He will step down when the court begins its summer recess in late June or early July.
Obama praised Stevens, saying the justice is "an impartial guardian of the law," and has applied the Constitution and the laws of the land "with fidelity and restraint."
Stevens' retirement will give Obama a second chance to name a Supreme Court Justice. He appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the court after David Souter retired last year.
"I view the process of selecting a Supreme Court nominee as among my most serious responsibilities as president," said Obama.
Stevens' retirement is unlikely to tip the balance in the court, as the justice is one of the four liberal-leaning members of the court. Obama is likely to name a liberal to succeed him, leaving the court's liberal-conservative composition at the present 4 to 5.
As Democrats still control 59 seats in the Senate, local media outlets are predicting that Obama will likely prevail in the nomination battle. The presidential nomination of a Supreme Court justice has to be confirmed by the Senate.
"I hope the Senate will move quickly in the coming weeks to debate and then confirm my nominee so that the new Justice is seated in time for the fall term," Obama said.
Reports indicate that leading candidates to replace Stevens are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland and Diane Wood. Some are also speculating whether Obama will pick a minority candidate, such as an Asian-American.