With his chief counsel and chief of staff by his side, Barack Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press briefing room on Friday, officially announcing the retirement plans of Supreme Court Justice David Souter and laying our what kind of appointment he would make.
With no advanced warning, even for Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the President took to the podium to read a brief set of prepared remarks. He had just gotten off the phone with Souter, he announced, and wanted to say a few words about the conversation.
"Throughout his two decades on Supreme Court, Justice Souter has shown what it means to be an independent and fair minded judge," said Obama. "He consistently defied labels and rejected absolutes, focusing instead on just one task: reaching a just result in the case that was before him."
As for making a choice to replace him on the bench, Obama laid out broad markers. Promising to "consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum," the president said he would like to see "our new Supreme Court justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October when the court's new term begins."
Here are Obama's full remarks, as released by the White House:
Throughout his two decades on the Supreme Court, Justice Souter has shown what it means to be a fair-minded and independent judge. He came to the bench with no particular ideology. He never sought to promote a political agenda. And he consistently defied labels and rejected absolutes, focusing instead on just one task -- reaching a just result in the case that was before him.
He approached judging as he approaches life, with a feverish work ethic and a good sense of humor, with integrity, equanimity and compassion -- the hallmark of not just being a good judge, but of being a good person.
I am incredibly grateful for his dedicated service. I told him as much when we spoke. I spoke on behalf of the American people thanking him for his service. And I wish him safe travels on his journey home to his beloved New Hampshire and on the road ahead.
Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.
I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded, and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.
As I make this decision, I intend to consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum. And it is my hope that we can swear in our new Supreme Court Justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October when the Court's new term begins.
Here's more discussion of the Court from the briefing, after Obama had made his remarks: