Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest and longest serving member of the U.S. Supreme Court and the leader of its liberal faction, announced today that he will step down when the court's term ends this summer.
Stevens, though appointed by a Republican president, often sided with the liberal justices. He wrote a passionate dissent from the decision that the high court issued in January which lifted many restrictions on campaign contributions by corporations.
Today's announcement, which Stevens said earlier this year was quite likely, will give President Obama a chance to make his second appointment to the high court. Last year, he appointed U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to succeed Associate Justice David Souter, who retired.
Obama today said he would nominate someone who, like Stevens, has "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 ordinary people."
Stevens, who was an appeals court judge before he was named to the high court in 1975 by President Ford, will turn 90 on April 20.