O’Connor's resignation is not the one that most people expected. Many observers thought Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is five years older and has been ill, would soon step down.
Now the big question is just who will be nominated to fill this vacancy?
Right now, President Bush only has one spot to fill and it seems as though he will only have to focus on finding O'Connor's replacement. That's due to an informal understanding that no more than one justice retire in the same term, if possible. Though finding two replacements is rare it has happened in the past in 1968, 1971 and most recently in 1986.
Rockford College Political Science Professor Jules Gleicher says, "When Burger retired and Ryan shifted Renquist to the Chief Justiceship that created a vacant position."
When President Ronald Regan appointed O'Connor 24 years ago she was a consensus conservative. But over the years O'Connor became the swing vote. She often voted with her conservative colleagues but in other cases voted with the court's more liberal justices.
Gleicher says, "In some sense what a justices jurisprudence is going to be cannot be predicted because new issues come along that we weren't anticipating at the time of their appointment."
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is calling on the President to nominate a centrist.
Durbin stated, "I think we can go through this process working with the White House on a bipartisan basis to find that consensus, centrist candidate who can fill the vacancy on the court and prepare us for any future vacancies that come along."
Professor Gleicher has his own theories on who will be nominated. Gleicher thinks that President Bush will either find someone who reflects his stance on the issues, or someone with impressive legal credentials..
Gleicher continued on by saying, "Or he'll play the ethnic card and name a Hispanic judge."
The White House has offered no hints on who might be nominated. President Bush is not expected to make a nomination in the next week. Any confirmation hearings wouldn't even begin until late August.