So, it looks like Justice Stevens might be retiring next spring, or so say the Supreme Court kremlinologists. Justices usually hire clerks a year in advance, and Stevens has hired just one for the 2010-11 term instead of the usual four. The man’s going to be 90 years old in April, so it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising. But I thought he was going to stick around until death, and he apparently still plays tennis regularly. Anyway, retirement announcements don’t usually come until the spring, so we won’t know for a while.
If Stevens announces retirement effective at the beginning of the summer recess, like Souter did, that would peg his retirement at about 300 days from now, and he might just miss surpassing Justice Field as the second-longest-serving justice. If he announces a retirement upon the swearing-in of his successor, like O’Connor did, then that would be a couple of months longer (or even more, if we get a Roberts–>Miers–>Alito situation, like we did four years ago), and in that case he would definitely surpass Field, leaving him second only to William O. Douglas in longevity — who happens to be the man Stevens replaced on the bench in 1975.
Think about that. If Stevens retires next spring, then only two justices will have held that particular Supreme Court seat since 1939. And who held it before Douglas? Louis Brandeis! That’s how long it’s been.