UGA law professor available to comment on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stevens and what qualifications may be looked for in his replacement


Media Advisory

Athens, Ga. - According to University of Georgia School of Law Assistant Professor Sonja R. West, who specializes in the U.S. Supreme Court and has served as a judicial clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's loss of Stevens opens up a big hole on the bench.

"Justice Stevens was unique on the court for his dual roles as both an alliance builder and as a maverick. He was the undisputed leader of the court's more left-leaning justices and was exceptionally skilled at being able to piece together a majority of five from some of the most unlikely of places. Yet, at the same time, he was an independent thinker and never afraid to stand alone when he felt the case necessitated it, making him one of the court's most-frequent sole dissenters."

West added that there is no doubt that there will be a readjustment period for the justices after Stevens steps down.

"A new justice simply cannot walk onto the court with the same respect that comes from decades of experience, proven intellect and unparalleled collegiality. If President Barack Obama truly wants to nominate someone in the mold of Justice Stevens, he should start by looking for someone with, of course, the exceptional smarts. The nominee, however, should also have the courage to speak up when no one else will, yet do so in a cordial manner. Justice Stevens always answered his critics, but never attacked them. I think this is part of the secret of his success."

As this change on the U.S. Supreme Court continues to unfold, West can be reached for comment at srwest@uga.edu.

West joined the Georgia Law faculty in 2006 as an assistant professor specializing in constitutional law, media law and the U.S. Supreme Court. Previously, West taught at the University of Alabama School of Law. She has also served as a judicial clerk for Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. For more information on West, please visit www.law.uga.edu/profile/sonja-r-west.