Justice Steven's departure from the court will be the end of an era. Appointed by President Ford in 1975, he is the longest-serving justice by more than a decade. Though he was appointed a Republican, he has become one of the court's most reliably liberal members. Stevens will leave a legacy of defending abortion rights, expanding protection for gays and restricting the availability of the death penalty.
According to published reports, his leaving will not change the composition of the court. It still gives President Obama the rare opportunity to make two appointments during his first two years in office. Currently, there are three probable front-runners: Solicitor General Elena Kagan, whom Obama appointed as the first woman to hold the post; Judge Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago and Judge Merrick B. Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
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