Justice Stevens to retire

April 9, 2010 12:48:44 PM PDT
What an amazing turn of events for Barack Obama - to have two Supreme Court nominations in his first 17 months.

The decision today by Justice John Paul Stevens - a moderate who came to be seen as a liberal - to step down gives Pres. Obama his opportunity to replace a second justice. But it also marks the end of an era for the Court and, to quote ABC News' Terry Moran, for the country.

Stevens, Moran wrote, is the last moderate Republican on the Court and, extending the argument, in any position of real power in America.

Republicans of old who once focused on the political center - Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Dirksen, Dole, Ford (who appointed Stevens), and Bush the first - are now gone, either literally or figuratively.

Even the Repubs who held positions in New York - moderates on most issues - fared poorly when faced with national possibilities. I'm thinking Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki.

They are not the voices that are leading the party today. And it's hard to imagine conservatives embracing Justice Stevens' positions on a woman's right to choose (for it), affirmative action (for it), the death penalty (against it), rights of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay (for them), or the Court's controversial ruling on the Bush/Gore election in 2000, during which Mr. Stevens, writing the dissent, said that "although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

Now the process - or is it a battle? - begins to pick his successor. We'll have the latest on the resignation and possible candidates for the Court, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we'll have the latest on the Pope, who once again is faced with yet another potential smoking gun that he helped cover up sexual child abuse by Catholic priests.

According to the Associated Press, church files show that the Pope, when he was Cardinal Joe Ratzinger, signed a letter back in 1985 that resisted defrocking a child-molesting priest from California because his removal would not have a good effect on the church.

The Vatican has steadfastedly insisted that Ratzinger - while in the role of the church's doctrinal watchdog office - played no role in preventing the removal of pedophile priests. So where does this end?

This Pope made a remarkable effort when he came here two years ago to meet with sexual abuse victims, and apologize for the behavior of his priests. The evidence now filtering out, and certainly the allegations, show that the Pope, while Cardinal, understood the scope of the problem long before it became public.

Can he remain in office if he's discredited? We're asking the question in an intellectually honest way. There are examples of Popes who have resigned - but the last one was in the 1400s. So where does all this end? We're looking into that.

And Nina Pineda tonight has the story of a man who bought a used car, with a maintenance history that appeared to be perfect. It passed the Car Fax test. The problem was that the car had been in some accidents - and fixed by the owner, without insurance paperwork. And so the buyer had no idea. He should have gone to a mechanic before the purchase. Instead, long after the deal, he had to call Nina and get 7 On Your Side.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg with the weekend AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.