WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced Friday he is retiring from the high court this summer.
The soon-to-be 90-year-old justice gave 35 years of his life to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dr. Charles Dunn, dean of Regent University School of Government, spoke with CBN News about what this could mean politically for President Obama and the future of the Court. Click play to watch.
Stevens might have stayed even longer, but said he wanted to make sure he stepped down while there was a liberal president like Barack Obama to name his replacement.
"It would be in the best interests of the Court to have my successor appointed and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of the Court's next term," Stevens told the president in a brief letter.
As the court's leading liberal, Stevens stood hard for abortion rights and a strict separation of church and state.
Although he was nominated by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975, Stevens soon veered left and stayed there most of his time on the court.
The president paid tribute to Stevens' long career on the highest court, describing him as a "brilliant" jurist and an "impartial guardian" of the law.
Obama added that he intended to waste no time in naming a successor.
"Obviously, it helps that we've been through the process once before," a senior administration official told The Washington Post. "We're not starting from scratch this time."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised Stevens' "gentlemanly manner," but let the president know Republicans will put up a fight if Obama nominates a left-leaning judicial activist.
"Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint and the fundamental importance of an even-handed reading of the law," McConnell said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says he'll push for midsummer hearings as there were for Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts since that's the best time to avoid bitter partisan fighting over the nomination.
Still, a big battle may be hard to avoid, with a third of lawmakers in the Senate and all of those in the House coming up for reelection soon and Washington being so divided along ideological lines.