There's speculation that another Supreme Court justice is getting ready to leave the bench.
Court observers note that Justice John Paul Stevens has hired fewer law clerks than usual, which is often a sign. Last year, Justice David Souter's failure to hire clerks was the first signal he was leaving.
In response to a question from The Associated Press, Stevens confirmed through a court spokeswoman Tuesday that he has hired only one clerk for the term that begins in October 2010. He is among several justices who typically have hired all four clerks for the following year by now. Information about this advance hiring is not released by the court but is regularly published by some legal blogs.
Stevens did not say whether he plans to hire his full allotment of clerks or whether he will leave the court at the conclusion of the term that begins next month. Retired justices are allowed to hire one clerk.
If Stevens steps down, it would give President Obama his second high court opening in two years. Stevens joined the court in 1975. At the age of 89, he's the second-oldest justice in the court's history.