John Paul Stevens
WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)--U.S. Supreme Court watchers say it is telling that Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, who will turn 90 next year, has hired just one law clerk in advance of the high court's 2010 term.
If Stevens, a reliable liberal vote on the nine-member court, leaves the bench, it would clear the way for President Barack Obama to appoint a second justice to the nation's highest court. His first nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, gained Senate confirmation this spring.
Court observers say it is customary for justices to hires new law clerks a year in advance. Stevens has hired only one clerk for the 2010 term -- not the usualthree or four.
Observers say retired justices traditionally have just one clerk.
"It would be out of character for Stevens to hire more clerks when he knew he was going to retire," Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, told Bloomberg.
Former U.S. Supreme Court clerks told The Associated Press that it would be unusual for a justice not to hire all of his clerks at the same time.
"I'd be surprised if he hired one but not four," Columbia University law professor Jamal Greene, who worked for Stevens in 2006 and 2007, was quoted as saying.
Stevens is second only to Oliver Wendell Holmes as the oldest justice. He joined the court in 1975, making him seventh-longest-serving justice, with nearly 34 years on the high court.
He was appointed to the Court by President Gerald Ford, a Republican.